Drinking water: Self-supplying schools

Information, advice and resources to support self-supplying schools in supplying clean, safe water for staff and students.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Boards
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Administrators

There are about 450 self-supplying schools in New Zealand. If your school has a registered drinking water supply, you have some new responsibilities under the Water Services Act 2021(external link). The water services regulator, Taumata Arowai, is working with the Ministry of Education to plan for how schools will meet these responsibilities. Taumata Arowai took over from the Ministry of Health as the water services regulator on 15 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.

Legislation and standards

Water Services Act 2021

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

Under this Act, as water suppliers you have a duty of care 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. 

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

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)

The Drinking Water Standards (DWSNZ) set out Maximum Acceptable Values (MAVs) for a range of contaminants which can affect the safety and quality of drinking water.

All self-supplying schools are required to test their drinking water regularly for E. coli and other parameters as set out in the standards and record the results in Argest. 

If your school supplies less than 500 people (that includes tamariki, teachers and other staff) you are required to test for E.coli at least once every three months and as often as once every month for older schools. If your school supplies over 500 people, your monitoring requirements will depend on the treatment system you use. See the DWSNZ(external link) for further details.

If E. coli is detected, or if any Maximum Acceptable Value is exceeded, you must take action to identify the likely cause and remedy the issue. If your supply is registered with Taumata Arowai, you must also notify it and specify what actions have been taken to remedy the issue.

There are some changes to how the drinking water standards apply under the Water Services Act 2021(external link). See the Taumata Arowai website(external link) for more information. 

Taumata Arowai is developing new Drinking Water Standards, Quality Assurance Rules, Aesthetic Values(external link) and Acceptable Solutions(external link), which will apply to all water suppliers, including self-supplying schools. These are expected to come into effect in July this year following public consultation.

How to keep your water supply safe 

Maintain your water supply collection, treatment and distribution system

As for buildings all parts of the water supply system need to be maintained. The key maintenance tasks will be included in your Water Safety Plan and will likely include:

  • ensuring water sources are protected from contamination e.g. ensuring fencing to exclude stock from bores is in place and secure
  • ensuring any leaks to the pipes and/or taps are located and repaired to prevent contaminants getting into the water
  • Replacing and/or cleaning filters at the frequency recommended by the supplier or when testing or monitoring indicates a problem with water quality
  • Calibrating and maintaining UV disinfection equipment at the frequency recommended by the supplier or when testing or monitoring indicates a problem with water quality
  • Cleaning and flushing water storage tanks on at least an annual basis

Keep your roof water safe

Collecting water from a roof could result in contaminants (for example, from birds and animals), 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 to a good standard, including:

  • cutting back trees from your roof
  • making sure your roof and guttering is clean
  • using lead-free materials
  • keeping your roof in good repair. 

Run drinking taps before school starts

Some heavy metals get into water through taps and metal pipes corroding. It builds up when water sits in the taps and pipes overnight.

Make sure all drinking taps are run briefly before the start of school. This is usually done by your caretaker. 

Test water

All state schools are annually asked by the Ministry's agent Argest where they obtain their water from (town supply, self-supply, or other supply).

Depending on your supply, you may have to have your water tested.

If your school is required to have its water supply tested, you must record the results with Argest's secure online service.

If your school is required to test its water supply, but you haven't yet recorded the results online, contact Argest for a password.

Email: TeamMOE@argest.com

Phone: 0800 274 378

Train staff 

You should not need to employ anyone to operate and manage your water supply system, however you will need to contract a qualified person to maintain particular parts of the system e.g. UV and cartridge systems.

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

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

Your Taumata Arowai regional office(external link) can help.


Taumata Arowai drinking-water resources(external link)

Getting advice

Always get independent advice before maintaining or upgrading your equipment, or employing consultants. Contact your property advisor if you need help.

What to do if you have a problem with your water

If you think your water supply may be unsafe you must take immediate action to protect the health of those who may drink the water. You must notify people who may be affected straight away. For example, put up notices saying 'unfit for drinking'.

In the first instance, refer to your Water Safety Plan where you should have recorded all identifiable risks and corrective actions. 

Actions you may need to undertake include:

  • disinfecting the water supply
  • disconnecting the water system
  • cleaning the water system
  • using alternative sources of water until your water testing indicates that your water is safe to consume again. 

If your supply is registered, you must also notify Taumata Arowai. For details on how and when to notify them, visit the Taumata Arowai website(external link)

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 by calling 04 889 8350. This number is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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.

You should consider the storage of drinking water in the event of an emergency. For 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 

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 Funding.

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.
  • Have 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 fountains 

You must provide at least one bubble fountain or similar for every 60 students in your school.

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