Water Services Reform

Search waterservicesreform.govt.nz

Rural drinking water, wastewater, stormwater (land drainage)

Most privately-owned or community-owned rural water supplies will not be affected by the water services reform.

The Three Waters reforms are about ensuring New Zealanders can enjoy safe, affordable and sustainable water services – now and in the future.

The reform will see drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services, currently being delivered by 67 individual councils, shift to 10 new Water Services Entities (WSE) as of 1 July 2024.

The changes being made ensures our water systems will be able to meet the challenges ahead from aging infrastructure, population growth, climate change, and natural disasters.

Drinking water

If you are a single household self-supplier – receiving your water from a rainwater tank or private bore without the potential to connect to a reticulated network – you will not be impacted. Privately-owned rural drinking water schemes will also not be transferred to the WSEs.

Rural water schemes, that have mixed ownership models with councils, which provide a combination of drinking water and stock water, are currently proposed that only the council-owned assets necessary for the delivery of three waters services would be transferred to the new Water Services Entities. However, users of qualifying schemes may seek to take user community ownership and operation of these schemes separate to the WSEs on the basis of cost, benefit and risk assessments, together with a 75% agreement amongst users.

Find out more about Council-owned mixed-use rural supplies

Separate to the Three Waters reforms, new drinking water standards are being delivered by water services regulators Taumata Arowai, that will have an impact on any water supply that provides drinking water to more than one household.

Find out more about Taumata Arowai 

Stormwater (land drainage)

Rural land drainage systems will remain with existing private landowners. Existing councils or territorial authorities will continue to regulate via the Resource Management Act (RMA). These local bodies may decide to contract this role out to the new WSEs if preferred.


Non-council owned private wastewater supply schemes will not transfer to the WSEs. Existing councils or territorial authorities will continue to regulate wastewater networks via the Resource Management Act (RMA) for these schemes. Councils will also have a responsibility to approve/regulate private schemes under the Building Act as they apply to the building code and the provision of sanitary services.

Freshwater Management

Separate to the Three Waters reforms, in September 2020, the Ministry for the Environment established new rules to protect and restore New Zealand’s fresh water, called Te Mana o te Wai. As key land-users, farmers and growers must manage land in relation to waterways in a way that complies with how these new rules are given effect locally.

To give effect to Te Mana o te Wai, regional councils will develop rules for land-use and freshwater use that farmers and growers will need to follow. Communities can be involved in this process through working with their regional councils around their area’s plan development.

Find out more about Te Mana o te Wai