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Koutu Nui says no to chemicals

Friday November 08, 2019 Written by Published in Health
Mark Brown. 18110502 Mark Brown. 18110502

Deputy prime minister says new water system will allow households choice to buy or boil or treat their own water. 


A traditional leaders group has consulted with Rarotonga residents and says they oppose the use of chemicals in all stages of Rarotonga’s water supply – that households should choose their own disinfection methods.

The Koutu Nui report on public water management is based on three district meetings in September.  Koutu Nui president Terea Mataiapo Paul Allsworth said the nearly 150 attendees wanted government to make an informed decision.

But Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown said government’s decisions on water treatment and disinfection were already based on “expert advice”.

The Koutu Nui report said they had presented the alternative filtration and disinfection options to the three vaka meetings. Most of the attendees opposed the use of chemicals for flocculation, an early stage of the product that removes larger detritus from the water. They agreed to trial other natural methods, he said.

They also didn’t want to use chlorine, the government’s preferred option for chemical disinfection of water. Instead the attendees wanted non-chemical disinfection methods like UV.

People agreed that household disinfection units (either UV or chlorination) would be the most effective way to give households their individual choice.

The leaders also found the public were also against households being charged for water use. “Only commercial properties should be charged. This is in line with the wishes of the majority of Rarotonga water intake landowners,” the report concluded.

Mark Brown said the government was committed to making water treatment decisions based on sound science, expert advice and world best practice as established by the World Health Organisation and other international standards of compliance for safe water consumption. 

He reiterated that all households would receive an allocation of water that was fair and reasonable at no charge.  The proposal to charge households that exceeded their allocation or wasted water was from a Koutu Nui conference he attended four years ago: “This was a sensible recommendation by the aronga mana to promote water conservation and reduce wastage of running and leaking taps.”

Commercial users and those that made money from the taxpayers’ asset could expect to pay water charges, he said. The water authority was still working through volumes and costs. “But I expect that it will not come into effect for at least 18 months to two years after the commissioning of the water system. This will enable accurate data collection and analysis to enable good decision making,” Brown added. “The government is also looking at ensuring that new water charges do not affect agriculture and food production.”

In the report, Koutu Nui suggests that instead of spending infrastructure project money on buying chemicals that nobody wants, those funds could be used for home water treatment units. Households could contribute about $500 to the cost of either a chlorination or UV disinfection unit, while the government project subsidisesdthe bulk purchase of the disinfection units and correct installation.

Thereafter the cost of operation and maintenance would be borne by the householder.