Three Waters


Drinking water

Safe, affordable and reliable drinking water is essential for the health of our people and our environment.

Last year more than 1 million people lived with tap water that did not meet drinking water standards. It is estimated that at least 35,000 New Zealanders get sick every year from drinking water that does not meet the international benchmark for clean drinking water. 

In mid-2017, following the Government Inquiry into Havelock North Drinking Water, the Government established the Three Waters Review to look at how to improve the regulation and service delivery arrangements of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater – the three waters – to better support New Zealand’s environment, health, and safety.

The findings of the Review were consistent with many of the Havelock North Inquiry’s findings. It raised system-wide questions about the effectiveness of the regulatory regime for the three waters, and the capability and sustainability of councils to continue providing water services.

Alongside service delivery reforms, to ensure critical investment is made to improve the safety of our drinking water services, a new water services regulator Taumata Arowai has been set up to strengthen our regulatory environment and ensure New Zealanders have access to safe drinking water that won’t make them sick.  

Taumata Arowai was established as a Crown entity in March 2021, and took over from the Ministry of Health as the new water services regulator for New Zealand on 15 November 2021 when the Water Services Act came into effect.