Water Services Reform

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Rural drinking water, stormwater (land drainage), wastewater

The water services reform is about ensuring New Zealanders can enjoy safe, affordable, and sustainable water services – now and in the future.

The water services reform is of council-owned and operated water services, which will see drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater services, currently being delivered by 67 individual councils, shift to 10 new Water Services Entities (WSE). Households who already pay for water services as part of their rates in future will pay their new Water Services Entity for these services.

It’s estimated that between $120 billion and $185 billion is required to maintain and improve our water infrastructure over the next 30 years. The reform provides for a greater focus on water services and establishes long-term strategic investment separate to council funding constraints.

The changes being made will enable us to meet the challenges caused by ageing infrastructure, historical under-investment, and the growing impacts of population growth and climate change.

Drinking water

Only council drinking water services will transfer to the new Water Services Entities (WSE). 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.

Stormwater (land drainage)

Rural land drainage systems will remain with existing private landowners and councils. Councils will continue maintain and regulate these via the Resource Management Act (RMA). However, councils may decide to contract this role out to their WSE if preferred.


Non-council owned private wastewater supply schemes will not transfer to the WSE. Existing councils will continue to regulate private schemes. Council wastewater services will transfer to the WSE.

Mixed-use rural water supplies

All council-owned mixed-use rural water supplies that provide a combination of drinking water and stock water will transfer to the WSE. However, users of qualifying schemes may seek to take user/community ownership and operation of these, on the basis of a business plan, which is independently assessed as viable and meeting regulatory compliance, and a 75% majority agreement of scheme users. Privately-owned rural drinking water schemes will not transfer. 

Find out more here: https://www.waterservicesreform.govt.nz/how-do-these-changes-affect-me/rural-communities/council-owned-mixed-use-rural-water-supplies/

Other government water regulations

The government has other pieces of work related to water which impact rural communities, these are not part of the Water Services Reform.

New Drinking Water Standards

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 drinking water standards at:

Freshwater Management

The Ministry for the Environment have established new regulations to protect and restore the health of New Zealand’s freshwater. As key land-users, farmers and growers must manage land in relation to waterways in a way that complies with how these regulations are given effect locally.

Find out more about the Ministry for the Environment’s freshwater work programme at: