The Three Waters reforms show change is coming

The Three Waters reforms show change is coming

The Three Waters reforms show change is coming, and Phathom can help you get ahead of the curve

The latest Three Waters reports are out, and they show significant change is coming. The Three Waters reform is a major programme designed to redefine New Zealand’s approach to drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater to “improve community and environmental wellbeing” and to simplify the tangle of councils and regional authorities that currently have responsibility for these three waters. Among the many changes in the offing will be demand for better monitoring technology—and that’s where Phathom comes in.

The latest reports are mainly concerned with economic modelling of the reforms, but they also indicate a broader direction of travel.

For example, Farrier Swier Consulting notes that “there is a strong will and mandate by the Government to improve current levels of compliance [with water quality standards] given historical and current failures within the system and the impacts this has on health and environmental outcomes.” Beca, a professional services firm specialising in assets and infrastructure, points out that, “given the significant relationship between Iwi/Maori and water, it is reasonable to expect that Iwi/Maori are likely to have high expectations, particularly in the area of environmental performance.” And the economic analysts at Deloitte predict that “contracting firms expect to see … a higher focus on compliance areas,” and that this, along with “increased investment in the sector,” will “result in an acceleration in the deployment of new technologies, which will flow through to operational efficiencies.” 

Phathom is one of these new technologies helping to improve efficiency and environmental outcomes, with results that are
far superior to alternative methods of water quality monitoring.

Take grab sampling, for example. Water quality is often monitored simply by having someone drive to a site, wade out into a stream or pond, and collect a jar of water to be sent away to a lab for analysis. It’s a slow, expensive, intermittent process, with results varying depending on exactly where the jar was dipped—it’s never the same place each time. Or there’s monitoring with single-beam sensors, which have vulnerable glass lenses that can break and, crucially, which lose accuracy while dirt builds up on them until they’re cleaned, producing unreliable data in the meantime. 

Phathom sensors are built around reliable, repeatable ratio-metric technology which can be used in two of the three waters: stormwater and wastewater.

For example, they’ve been used to help meet environmental compliance conditions in a major residential development called Whenuapai Village. This 41 hectare development involved over 300,000 m3 of earthworks, over 20 km of stormwater and sewer drainage lines, and a 10 m deep wastewater pumping station. Sediment controls are obviously vital in a site like this. Installed by Mote, an environmental monitoring company part-owned by the commercialisation arm of the University of Auckland, Phathom sensors are trusted for the continuous accuracy of their multi-beam ratio-metric technology and their ability to monitor changing conditions in real time. There’s a full explanation of how this technology works here, and you can read about the Whenuapai Village installation in this case study featuring Mote’s Senior Scientist Morkel Zaayman. 

As Beca says, we can expect to see “greater regulatory discipline [applied] to the economic and environmental performance of the three waters sector” in future. Phathom’s turbidity and suspended solids sensors are a great way to get ahead of this curve.