Yesterday a report came out suggesting that New Zealand wastes 100 billion litres of water a year. Whilst the amount seems massive to a single human being, after reading this article and noting the example in it, would you still believe 100 billion litres per year to be such a massive amount?
If we took the 100 billion litres of water lost each year, my guess is that quite a bit would go missing through poorly maintained or derelict pipes that are simply not fit for purpose any longer. Some would be lost because of poor counters, inaccurate records. If attempts to track water loss around individual homes are made a whole range of issues pop up ranging from leaks behind walls, poor pipes between the council monitored counter and the dwelling.
Sometimes natural events such as earthquakes, flooding and landslides destroy pipes. In the time it takes to notice the breakage, report it to the council and have someone come out to fix it, thousands of litres of water would have been lost. And we do not know if it accounts for water pumped out from around the pipes so that repairs could be effected?
But would councils have the money necessary to overhaul their water infrastructure? Would people be willing to have all of their roads ripped up to replace the obsolete piping underneath, never mind the disruption it would cause?
To put the figure into perspective. Right now, running higher than normal because of heavy rain, the Waimakariri River is running at 240m³ per second or about 240,000 litres per second. It can in a 1-in-100 year return period flood discharge 4,000m³ or about 4 million litres per second.
I believe based on other complaints about misuse of our fresh water resource, that the real problems lie with water quality, paying royalties for large scale fresh water takes. The problems also lie with the extent to which we have developed our fresh water resources already and that unless we prepared to scale back future applications for fresh water takes, the problem with public perceptions about fresh water may be also about how much we know as citizens about it as a resource.