Drinking water in schools

Information, advice and resources from the Water Services team to support schools in supplying clean, safe water for their kaimahi and ākonga, including around 450 schools across Aotearoa who operate their own water supply.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Boards
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Administrators

Council water supply

Schools relying on council water supplies have obligations to keep their water safe.

They should contact their local council for specific advice about the quality of water.

Council contact list – Local Government NZ(external link)

What to do if you have a problem with your water

Water is unsafe

If you think your water supply is unsafe (that is, it contains chemical or biological contaminants), you must take immediate action to protect the health of those who drink it, including notifying people who may be affected.

Risk of serious illness or death

If there is an imminent risk of serious illness or death arising from your drinking water supply and the situation can’t be immediately controlled, contact Taumata Arowai.

Phone: 04 889 8350

This number is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Council water supply

If your school is on a council water supply, call your local council for assistance.

Council contact list – Local Government NZ(external link)

Bacteria in water supply

If you detect bacteria in your supply because of routine monitoring, you must take the actions detailed below.

What to do if testing detects contamination in your water

Water supply is contaminated by E. coli or exceeds safe levels for another contaminant

If E. coli is detected, this means there are likely to be bacteria in your drinking water, which could make students and staff sick. You must take immediate steps to address the issue and minimise the health risk.

If you have a water safety plan, refer to this for critical actions.

At minimum, you are required to:

  • Close off taps and drinking fountains, and post notices which clearly state that the water is ‘unsafe to drink unless boiled’. 
  • Make alternative arrangements to supply drinking water such as:
    • providing bottled water or,
    • sourcing safe water using a registered water carrier service (i.e. tanker operator) accessing water that complies with the drinking water standards. 
  • If your supply is registered, notify Taumata Arowai by completing a notification through Hinekōrako. You will need to record what you plan to do to resolve the issue. 
  • Initiate an investigation to identify the possible cause of contamination. This is most likely to be due to organic, animal or soil contamination. We recommend you work through the following checklist of maintenance tasks: 
    • Check and clean roofs and gutters where there are obvious organic material and/or animal or bird faeces 
    • Check for contamination at bore heads including ensuring stock are excluded  
    • Flush water storage tanks if these have not been cleaned for several years 
    • Ensure filters and UV disinfection units have been recently serviced including replacing cartridges and UV lamps etc. 
    • Check for leaks in the network and cracks in water storage tanks 
    • Add suitable disinfectant (not household bleach) to the supply, to any stored water, and flush the disinfected water through the school network. Find guidance for emergency disinfection of your self-supplied drinking water here [PDF, 198 KB]. These measures are intended only for an emergency response to an identified bacterial contaminant in your drinking water. IMPORTANT: This guidance is not intended for everyday drinking purposes.
  • After cleaning and critical maintenance, you will need to re-test the water 3 times. The supply can only be deemed safe to drink once 3 sequential samples (taken at least 1 day apart) have tested free of E. coli.
  • Enter your water re-test results on the Argest portal as soon as you receive them to confirm your school’s water supply is safe to drink and ensure there is an audit trail of your school’s test results. 

Water supply is contaminated by coliforms but tests free of E. coli

The presence of coliform bacteria indicates that contamination may be present although, E. coli bacteria have not been identified. The larger the number of bacteria, the more significant the likely level of contamination.

Coliform bacteria will most likely be due to organic, animal or soil contamination of your water supply. Although you do not need to stop drinking the water, you should investigate possible causes of contamination and work through the following checklist of maintenance tasks. 

  • Check and clean roofs and gutters where there are obvious organic material and/or animal or bird faeces present.
  • Check for contamination at bore heads, including ensuring stock are excluded .
  • Flush water storage tanks where these have not been cleaned for several years.
  • Ensure filters and UV disinfection units have been recently serviced including replacement of cartridges and UV lamps if required etc.
  • Check for leaks in the network and cracks in water storage tanks. 

Once you have completed your investigation and completed necessary cleaning, flushing, maintenance or repairs, you should continue to test and monitor coliform levels as part of your monthly testing to confirm you have resolved the issue.

Safety and maintenance responsibilities

New water supply regulator

Most self-supplying schools (about 432) are also registered with the new water supply regulator, Taumata Arowai, as a water supplier. If your school is one of these registered drinking water suppliers, you have new responsibilities under the Water Services Act 2021.

Water Services Act 2021 – NZ Legislation(external link)

We are working with Taumata Arowai to enable schools to meet these responsibilities over the next few years.

Taumata Arowai took over from the Ministry of Health as the water services regulator in November 2021. Its goal is to lift the standard of drinking water across Aotearoa so that everyone has access to safe drinking water, including schools

Healthy water, healthy people – Taumata Arowai(external link)

New drinking water standards

The Water Services Act empowers Taumata Arowai to set new drinking water standards, rules and acceptable solutions, and establish a register of water suppliers (Hinekōrako). 

Many of its new requirements came into force on 14 November 2022. 

Schools that supply their own water but are not registered, or receive water from a private supply which does not meet the drinking water standards, are also responsible under current health and safety legislation to ensure their water is safe to drink.

Health and Safety at Work Regulations 2016 – NZ Legislation(external link)

Drinking water safety plan

If your school is a self-supplier of drinking water, you are now required to have a drinking water safety plan (DWSP) on file. You will have been sent a template with some information about your school already filled. This will be accompanied by a sheet of bespoke guidance for your relevant supply.

Here is a Drinking Water Safety Plan template (if you have not been sent a pre-populated DWSP) and guidance to help you fill it out.

• For rainwater source schools: DWSP template [DOCX, 4.8 MB] along with guidance [DOCX, 3.7 MB].

• A Google Docs DWSP for rainwater source schools can be found here(external link)

Please note: If the DWSP template above does not match your water source (and you have not yet received your pre-populated DWSP), you are not required to action anything yet.

Drinking water maintenance tool

A drinking water maintenance tool will help schools that supply their own water to keep their water supply safe.

It is an excel spreadsheet which provides simple maintenance and servicing guidelines for a school’s water supply.

Drinking water maintenance tool [XLSX, 140 KB]

The drinking water maintenance tool:

  • outlines and summarises tasks
  • can be printed as a ready reference to guide your maintenance activities
  • can be used for tracking and recording your maintenance activities to ensure nothing is overlooked.

If your school uses more than one type of water source (for example, rainwater and ground water) you may need download 2 copies of the spreadsheet.

Instructions on using the tool can be found in the introduction tab in the spreadsheet.

Reimbursement of costs associated with supplying water

Schools that self-supply their water, or are required to treat their water to meet drinking water standards, are eligible for reimbursement of costs associated with their water supply, including servicing, repairs, maintenance, water sampling and testing when their existing budgets are insufficient.

The school water supply reimbursement guideline will help you with claiming back your costs.

School water supply reimbursement information [DOCX, 58 KB]

How to keep your water supply safe

Maintain your water supply collection, treatment and distribution system

As with buildings, all parts of the water supply system need to be maintained. The key maintenance tasks will be included in your Water Safety Plan if you have one and should include:

  • Ensuring water sources are protected from contamination
  • Replacing and/or cleaning filters at the frequency recommended by the manufacturer and before a problem with water quality is identified by testing or monitoring
  • Calibrating and servicing UV disinfection equipment at the frequency recommended by the manufacturer and before a problem with water quality is identified by testing or monitoring
  • Ensuring any leaks to the pipes and/or taps are repaired to prevent contaminants getting into the water

Keep your roof water safe

Collecting water from a roof could result in contaminants (for example, from bird and animal faeces and organic matter), and corrosion materials, including lead from flaking paint or old nail heads, in your water supply.

To mitigate these risks, make sure your roof is maintained by:

  • cutting back trees
  • keeping the roof and guttering clean
  • using lead-free materials
  • repairing any damage
  • cleaning and flushing water storage tanks at least every two years. 

Keep your groundwater free from contamination

Groundwater can be contaminated by contact with contaminated soil, surface water and/or shallow groundwater. To mitigate these risks, make sure your bore meets the following requirements:

  • At least 50 metres away from any wastewater treatment, collection or discharge system e.g. septic tanks and discharge fields
  • Sealed for the first few meters below ground with a sealing clay or other impervious material
  • Sealed at the surface with a concrete apron which sheds rainwater
  • Al penetrations of the bore by pipes or cables are closed
  • Stock are excluded from approaching closer than 10 metres to the bore.

Reduce levels of contaminants in your spring or surface water

Spring or surface water (streams) will usually be contaminated with a range of bacteria and soil, as well as inorganic and organic contaminants. The type and number will vary depending on the land management activities occurring in the catchment. To reduce the levels of these contaminants we recommend you:

  • Exclude high-risk activities from the catchment if possible e.g. intensive stock grazing, chemical spraying, cultivation and cropping, application of poison for pest management etc.
  • Use an infiltration system in the bed or bank of the stream where possible to filter out large contaminants
  • Provide a settling basin or tank downstream of the surface water intake to settle out sediment and other large contaminants
  • Avoid taking water during periods when the source is very dirty by providing extended untreated water storage.

Keep water safe after treatment

Contamination of the treated water in the distribution network can occur in several ways including:

  • Breaks or leaks in the network
  • Corrosion of metal pipes and fittings leaching metals which build up when water sits in taps and pipes
  • Backflow of contaminated water into the network due to differential pressures

To mitigate these risks, you should:

  • Identify and repair leaks promptly
  • Run all drinking taps briefly before the start of the school day and particularly after long holiday absences
  • Ensure backflow protection is installed and tested at least annually for any high, or medium-risk activities on-site e.g. swimming pools, dental clinics, chemical handling and storage areas, boilers, external hoses or irrigation systems as well as stock watering connections

Train staff 

You should not need to employ anyone to operate and manage your water supply system. However, you will need a qualified person to maintain parts of the system, for example UV and cartridge systems.

Staff can be trained in many aspects of water supply systems, including:

  • identifying and undertaking required maintenance
  • taking water samples for laboratory analysis
  • making sure your water meets the Drinking Water Standards.

If you need more help, contact your Taumata Arowai regional office(external link) .

Getting advice

Please contact the Water Services team before maintaining or upgrading your equipment or employing consultants.

Email: water.services@education.govt.nz

Contact your Ministry property advisor if you need help.

Property staff contact details

Legislation and standards

Water Services Act 2021

The Water Services Act 2021(external link) (the Act) provides a new regulatory approach for drinking water. 

As water suppliers, you are required to ensure your drinking water is safe.

Self-supplying schools must prepare for and respond to any incident that puts the safety or adequacy of the drinking water supply at risk. From 14 November 2022, Taumata Arowai is able to enforce non-compliance and has a range of measures at its disposal, including issuing fines. 

Key changes

Under the Act, there are some key changes to the management of drinking water that affect schools. These include:

  • establishing a register of water suppliers called Hinekōrako
  • setting new Drinking Water Standards and Aesthetic Values which will apply from 14 November 2022. The Ministry will work with schools to ensure they meet the new standards as soon as possible.
  • requiring all registered water suppliers to comply with either the Quality Assurance Rules or adopt an Acceptable Solution. The Ministry is working with Taumata Arowai to agree a timeline for upgrading self-supplied school supplies to comply.

Self-supplying schools and the Ministry hold joint responsibility for ensuring the safety of the drinking water supply.

For more information on the new requirements, see the Taumata Arowai website(external link).

The Ministry is implementing monitoring and maintenance changes to comply with the new requirements, and determining an approach to upgrading school water supply infrastructure.

Health and Safety at Work Act

Providing clean water at your school is part of your overall health and safety responsibilities. We recommend you review your school’s health and safety systems.

This will help you meet the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015(external link).

Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand

All self-supplying schools must ensure their drinking water supply meets the Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand (DWSNZ). These can be found on the Taumata Arowai website(external link). 

DWSNZ sets out Maximum Acceptable Values (MAVs) for a range of determinands which can affect the safety and quality of drinking water.

Some determinands affect the aesthetic quality of drinking water. Where these are present at elevated levels, schools can choose to treat for these and then test for them as part of routine monitoring. The Aesthetic Values can also be found on the Taumata Arowai website.

Schools that supply their own water must:

  • maintain and service their water supply
  • sample and test for E coli, total coliforms and any other determinand that exceeds 50% of the maximum acceptable value in the DWSNZ
  • confirm their supply registration details on Taumata Arowai’s portal Hinekōrako and update the information annually.

School water supply registration

Most schools which supply their own water were registered on the Ministry of Health Drinking Water Supply Register. The register is a public document providing key summary information about the water supply to anyone who is interested.

With the establishment of Taumata Arowai, the register was transferred. The new register captures additional detail about each registered water supply and has been renamed to Hinekōrako. The new register provides an opportunity to confirm key information on each water supply and collect additional detail about the supply. The Water Services Act sets out requirements for registered supplies, including confirmation of their supply details.

Taumata Arowai has contacted schools previously registered and asked them to confirm their details through Hinekōrako.

Once registered through Hinekōrako, schools will have a 3-letter 3-number code assigned to their supply. For example, Omaio School: OMA006.

What you are required to do

If you are a registered supply, you must complete the registration update process as soon as possible.

Updating your water supply details in Hinekōrako [PDF, 190 KB]

Questions about logging in and access should be directed to Taumata Arowai.

Technical questions about your water supply can be directed to the Water Services team at water.services@education.govt.nz

Once you have confirmed your registration you will also need to:

  • advise Taumata Arowai of any non-compliance (e.g. E. coli is present in treated water), or about any other major disruption to the water supply, by logging a notification through Hinekōrako
  • complete an annual review of your registration details and correct anything that has changed.

When and how often to sample and test your water

All self-supplying schools must complete as a minimum water sampling and testing of their treated water for E. coli and total coliforms every month, including during the holidays. This is to ensure the water is safe to drink at all times. This change reflects the higher duty of care associated with the new Act and the poor condition of many existing water supply systems. This may require you to arrange for someone to sample the supply during staff absences.

Sampling is to be completed in the first two weeks of the month if at all possible to ensure that testing, recording of results and follow-up on any water quality issues can be completed by the end of the month.

Water sampling guidance for schools [PDF, 117 KB]

How to sample your water

  • Water must be sampled from a tap in the water supply network used by students and/or staff for drinking and preferably the furthest away from the treatment plant.
  • The tap should be run for five minutes to flush the line and the sample bottle rinsed three times before taking the sample for testing.
  • Fill the bottle, leaving a small air gap at the top, before putting on the cap.
  • Make sure you keep the sample cool before placing into the chilly bin or insulated travel pack for transporting.

Sampling must be completed on a day and time to coordinate with transport arrangements so that the sample reaches the testing laboratory within 24 hours.

If E. coli bacteria are detected, you will need to:

  • immediately restrict access to water
  • arrange an alternative safe supply
  • follow-up on and eliminate the possible cause of contamination
  • do three consecutive re-tests to confirm that the water is safe to drink again.

Testing by an accredited laboratory

All samples must be tested by an accredited laboratory. You can identify and confirm if a laboratory is accredited by checking on the Taumata Arowai website(external link). Some laboratories which are not accredited may send samples on to an accredited laboratory for testing. If the laboratory which tests your sample is not accredited, you must contract with one that is.

Your laboratory should supply you with sample bottles and courier packs in advance of the monthly sampling round. If bacteria are detected, you will need to arrange additional sample bottles for the three re-tests to be taken after contamination has been addressed.

Recording test results

The outcome of E. coli and coliform testing must be recorded in the Argest secure online portal as soon as the results are received. The results for all testing, including other determinands, should be saved in the school file. If your school is required to test its water supply, but you haven't yet recorded the results online, contact Argest for a password. 

Argest guidance for water suppliers [PDF, 220 KB]

Email: TeamMOE@argest.com

Phone: 0800 274 378


Taumata Arowai drinking-water resources(external link)

Do you understand your school water supply? [PDF, 214 KB]

Drink water maintenance tool [XLSX, 140 KB]

School water supply reimbursement information(external link)

Water supply reminders [PDF, 269 KB]

Updating your water supply details in Hinekōrako [PDF, 190 KB]

Argest guidance for water suppliers [PDF, 220 KB]

Water sampling guidance for schools [PDF, 117 KB]


Answers to the most frequently asked questions about your water supply and complying with requirements are below. If you have further questions, email water.services@education.govt.nz or contact Taumata Arowai.

Frequently asked questions [PDF, 989 KB] [PDF, 989 KB] [PDF, 989 KB]

Amount of drinking water to provide

Amount of drinking water to provide

For normal daily use, you must be able to provide at least 23 litres of water per person per day that the school is expected to be occupied.

The Ministry recommends you store enough treated drinking water for three days, both to minimise disruption if there’s a treatment plant outage and to provide enough during an emergency. For self-supplied schools this can be achieved by having a treated water storage tank. For further guidance on good practice for water storage and on the amount of water you should store, refer to the Get Thru website.

Storing water(external link)

Budgeting for your water supply

Budgeting for your water supply

Include water management in your 10 Year Property Plan.

Make sure you budget for maintenance, renewal and upgrading of water infrastructure such as water treatment plants, storage tanks, backflow preventers, taps and pipes.

If your water supply system breaks down such that you cannot supply safe drinking water, it becomes a priority 1 urgent, health and safety project, and should be funded through your 5 Year Agreement.

Conserve water

Conserve water

Make sure water isn’t being wasted at your school.

  • Install water meters so you can set a target to reduce water use.
  • Check for leaks and repair them straight away.
  • Install low-flow taps and adjustable spray nozzles.
  • Install dual-flush toilets and urinals that run on timers or sensors.
  • Collect rainwater and reuse this water for the school gardens.
  • Educate staff and students on ways to save water.
  • Sweep outside areas rather than hosing them.
  • Water plants later in the day to reduce water loss.

Drinking taps and fountains

Drinking taps and fountains

School users must have easy access to drinking water during learning and breaks. Drinking water provision and fixtures should be evenly distributed near learning and recreation areas. A mixture of indoor and outdoor water supply is expected.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Registration details

Why do we need to update our water supply details with Taumata Arowai when we already test our water and record the results in Argest?

Taumata Arowai as the water regulator maintains a public register of water suppliers called Hinekōrako. All school water supplies previously registered under the Ministry of Health, are now required to update their registration details as well as provide additional information about their water supply.

This is separate from the testing of water and recording of results in Argest which is a Ministry of Education requirement to confirm water in schools is safe to drink.

How do I go about updating the details for our water supply for the first time in Hinekōrako?

To begin, you will need to be sent a temporary login from Taumata Arowai. You then need to ensure you set up a RealMe login. This can be a generic login for your school, or a personal login created for use with Taumata Arowai’s Hinekōrako. Using the temporary login from Taumata Arowai, set up a permanent login and password. You should then follow the guide provided by MoE for confirming, updating, and answering all the questions in each of the four sections. For help with this, go here: Updating your water supply details in Hinekōrako [PDF, 190 KB].

Do schools that collect their own rainwater for drinking need to update their water supply details?

All schools that self-supply drinking water and were previously registered with the Ministry of Health are required to update and maintain basic registration information on their water supply, regardless of the water source they use. If your water supply was not registered previously there is no requirement to become registered at this time.

Why do I need to update our details when our supply is already registered?

It is a legal obligation to ensure your water supply registration is accurate and up-to-date. If your water supply was previously registered with the Ministry of Health, you will need to check and update your supply and contact details. This is because the information brought across from the Ministry of Health may be out-of-date or incomplete. Also, Taumata Arowai have additional information requirements in Hinekōrako which will need to be completed. Once you have completed the update, you will receive an annual reminder from Taumata Arowai to review and update any information that has changed.

What happens if my school doesn’t update our registration as required? 

Ensuring that your water supply details are accurate and up-to-date, along with completing the maintenance and monitoring requirements set by MoE, gives users of your water supply confidence that you are effectively managing your water supply to deliver safe drinking water. It demonstrates that you understand your water supply and that you’re taking your responsibilities seriously. Failing to update your registration, may lead your school community and the regulator Taumata Arowai to conclude that you are not managing water safety risks appropriately. Taumata Arowai may choose to highlight and escalate their concerns using remedies provided in the legislation.

  1. Recording test results in Argest

Why do we need to enter water test results into Argest?

Recording of water test results in Argest is used by MoE to monitor your school’s compliance with the monthly bacterial testing requirements. If test results are not entered your school is considered non-compliant. Argest is the key source of information for initiating an incident when E. coli and/or total coliforms are detected in your treated drinking water. Re-test results following an E. coli incident also need to be entered into Argest. The laboratory will usually send test results within a few days of receiving a sample. It is critical that you enter these test results into Argest as soon as you receive them.

Can we record historic test results into Argest? I have found the system won’t let me enter them retrospectively.

Historic test results (including the results of re-tests after an E. coli incident) can be entered into Argest.  Results from a previous month can be entered in the current month by selecting a new record and entering the original sample date. Comments should be entered to explain the reason for the delay in entering the data. Refer to this guide about entering test results in Argest.

Argest guidance for water suppliers [PDF, 220 KB]

  1. General Compliance

Who is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Water Services Act?   

Both the school’s Board of Trustees (as the operator of the school water supply) and the Ministry (as the owner of the water supply assets) have compliance responsibilities under the Act and the regulations managed by Taumata Arowai. The Ministry is working closely with Taumata Arowai to agree the priority for meeting the various compliance requirements and ensure that the burden on schools is minimised as far as possible. The initial priorities are to ensure the school water supply registration details are up to date, effective maintenance and servicing is being undertaken, source and treated water testing is being undertaken, and Water Safety Plans are in place by the end of 2023. The Ministry will be engaging with schools as we work through these requirements.

Why do we need to update registration details in the water services regulator Taumata Arowai’s web-portal Hinekōrako?

As an entity that supplies water to members of the public, the school and Ministry is required to ensure basic information about the school water supply is accurate in the water services regulator (Taumata Arowai) web-portal, Hinekōrako. MoE has worked with Taumata Arowai to provide updated information for contact details and water supply categories which has been used to update registration information. The school as the legal operator of the water supply is required and best placed to confirm information about the specific details of the water supply source, treatment, and specific school contacts.

Our school is registered on Hinekōrako and has been advised by Taumata Arowai that we need to provide data on our compliance with the water quality rules and regulations every six months using a spreadsheet template.  Do we really need to do this if all our testing has been recorded in Argest?

One of the compliance requirements for registered water supplies is to report on compliance either every 3 months or 6 months depending on the number of users served by the supply. MoE has advised Taumata Arowai that we do not have either the information required nor the reporting system to enable the Ministry or schools to meet this reporting requirements. The Ministry will continue to work with Taumata Arowai to agree interim reporting arrangements based on data extracted from Argest. Schools do not need to complete reports at this time.

Why do we need to notify Taumata Arowai when we have a water quality or water availability problem.

It is a requirement for water supplies to provide adequate quantities of safe drinking water. Whenever you detect contaminants (e.g. E. coli) in your treated water at levels above the drinking water standards, Taumata Arowai requires the testing laboratory as well as the water supplies to notify them. You do this by completing the notification form on the Taumata Arowai website or by completing the notification within your Hinekōrako registration page.

Taumata Arowai also want you to notify them if there is a serious or extended disruption to your water supply. In both cases you will need to indicate how you are proposing to address the issue and by when.

What else do self-supplying schools need to do to comply with the legislation?

It is a requirement for self-supplying schools to monitor their source water and treated water quality. The Ministry has set requirements of monthly bacterial testing of treated water at all schools to satisfy this. Water suppliers are also expected to undertake regular maintenance of water supply components, and to manage any incidents which impact quality or availability of the drinking water supply in a timely and appropriate way. 

The rules and regulations also set out specific requirements for the physical water supply infrastructure. The Ministry is working with Taumata Arowai to agree a staged approach to upgrading water sullies at self-supplying schools starting with the highest priority schools. Achieving full compliance will take some time as the Ministry secures additional funding for the upgrades and on-going maintenance.

What do I need to do about a Drinking Water Safety Plan (DWSP) for my school?

One of the compliance requirements is preparation of a Drinking Water Safety Plan (DWSP). It is not necessary for a school to complete a DWSP at this time.

Taumata Arowai has agreed with the Ministry’s proposed approach to help schools meet this requirement by developing standardised DWSPs that are robust, consistent, and easy to understand. The Ministry has engaged a team of consultants to create templates for the different school water sources and risks. These templates will be standardised and pre-populated with basic information for each school.  All schools will be provided with a draft DWSP and asked to add school specific information by the end of 2023, before uploading the DWSP to Hinekōrako.

What happens if we’re not compliant with all the requirements within the required timeframes? 

All registered self-supplied school water suppliers were supposed to comply with the new requirements from 14 November 2022. Nearly all school water supplies will not be compliant with the water regulations for years.  In the meantime, the Ministry has agreed a staged and prioritised approach to achieving compliance with Taumata Arowai, based on the following mitigation actions being implemented:

  • water supplies are maintained and serviced regularly
  • source water and treated water quality monitoring is implemented including monthly bacterial testing
  • water suppliers respond and resolve any water quality non-compliances promptly.

  1. Testing

Our school receives water from a community or rural water scheme, so why do we need to test? 

The need for monitoring and testing depends on the quality of water provided by the school’s water supplier. While most schools receive water from Councils or water supply schemes that meet the New Zealand Drinking Water Standards, some schools rely on providers that don’t meet these standards.

Many smaller community, rural water and irrigation schemes provide water which does not meet the drinking water standards.  To ensure water is safe to drink, the Ministry requires the school to further treat their drinking water. To confirm any treatment system at the school is effective we require the school to sample and test the treated water for E. coli and Total coliforms every month. All maintenance and monitoring costs can be recovered from the Ministry through the school’s Heat, Light and Water Budget.  If you are unsure if your supply meets the drinking water standards, first check with the scheme management and then feel free to seek advice from the Water Services team at MoE.

Why is my laboratory asking us to measure and record the water temperature when we are taking a sample for testing?

The new Water Quality Assurance Rules do stipulate the following sampling requirement: 

Drinking water suppliers to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure that samples for E. coli, total coliforms, or other microbiological contaminants are delivered to a laboratory within 24 hours of the sample being collected, and at a water temperature that is no higher than the water temperature at the time of sampling but above zero degrees Celsius. 

We have advised TA that meeting these requirements is not always practicable, given transport challenges and the need for the school to have a thermometer of suitable quality that is calibrated. We are aware that laboratories have been asking water suppliers to measure water temperature of the water sample, however we have indicated to them that if this isn’t done the water should still be tested but that the report can include a qualification. If a suitable cool box container and cool packs are used, then the sample should meet the above requirement and be representative.  If you are happy to measure and record the temperature, then please feel free to do so however we have not made this a requirement for schools taking their own samples.

Does water used for non-drinking purposes like flushing toilets and filling the swimming pool need to be tested monthly?

No – the monthly testing requirement is only for drinking water at schools supplying their own water or receiving their drinking water from a supplier e.g. community or rural water supply which does not meet the drinking water standards specified by Taumata Arowai.

Why are we required to test our water monthly when the Taumata Arowai water quality assurance rules indicate that for small water supplies (<100 users) treated water testing requirements are only every three months?

The provision for three-monthly testing of treated water for small water supplies only applies where all other compliance requirements under the rules are met.  Currently school water supplies fail to comply with many of the legislative requirements, including physical infrastructure as well as treatment and monitoring provisions.

The Ministry has therefore agreed with Taumata Arowai a staged programme for upgrading school water supplies as well as systems for monitoring and reporting to achieve compliance.  In the interim, the Ministry has agreed to implement enhanced bacterial monitoring of treated water (monthly sampling and testing) at all self-supplying schools, to reduce the risk of supplying unsafe drinking water.

Why are we required to do monthly sampling and testing when we have never had a problem and getting a sample to a lab is very difficult? 

The requirements for monthly testing have been chosen as a balance between cost and the risk of supplying contaminated water. Sampling and testing of treated water provides some assurance that the water supply system is operating and functioning effectively. 

The Ministry understands the difficulties of undertaking monthly monitoring for remote schools where there is no easy or regular transport option. We want to collaborate with you to identify a practical solution to facilitate sampling and transport to a laboratory. Options may include: 

  • contracting with a laboratory provider that will undertake sampling as well as testing
  • contracting with a third party to transport the samples to connect with a courier or rural delivery depot
  • reimbursing a member of the school community to transport the samples.

We understand that the changes will result in additional cost. These costs should be funded from your Heat, Light and Water operational budget. If the additional costs are likely to result in you exceeding your budget, you should request reimbursement of the additional costs from the Ministry.  There is more information on how the web page.

Contamination in water

  1. E. coli detection

What do I do if my regular monthly testing detects E. coli or coliforms?

There is information about what you need to do on the web page.

Contamination in water

  1. Schools on reticulated water supplies

What are the obligations for schools which receive their water from a supplier which complies with the drinking water regulations?

The duty of care obligation to supply safe drinking water applies to all schools.

For schools on network or Council supplies the obligations are more limited, but include:

  • ensuring there is adequate backflow protection in place
  • that backflow protection is tested annually
  • repairing leaks and breaks to the network promptly
  • ensuring repair methods include good practice hygiene and disinfection procedures to prevent contamination
  • ensuring the school uses water as efficiently as possible.
  1. Reimbursing Water Expenses

How can schools arrange reimbursement of the costs of self-supplying their own drinking water?

Information on reimbursement is available on the web page. Drinking water in schools: Legislation and standards

If water assets need to be upgraded or replaced to ensure compliance with the Water Services Act will this be funded through my 5YA?  

The Ministry has established the Water Services Investment Programme to support schools in meeting their water services obligations, to address health and safety, and address level of service issues. The Ministry has allocated funding to upgrade an initial priority 20% of the water supplies at self-supplied schools. More funding is being sought to enable upgrading of all water supplies at self-supplied school.  However, it will be some years before water infrastructure at all schools can be upgraded or replaced to enable compliance. 

Any urgent work will need to be funded through the school’s 5YA budget and/or through an application for unforeseen funding where there is an urgent health and safety issue. The Water Services team has been established to support schools to deliver safe drinking water.

If you plan to (or find you need to) upgrade your water supply, the water services team can help ensure work is cost-effective, future-proof, and meets regulatory obligations wherever possible.



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