Water everywhere but not a drop to drink – this is how it was last week in North Dunedin after an unfortunate incident when an old unclosed pipe led to possible contamination of the treated water supply with untreated water. Those cups of coffee we’ve all come to rely on were unavailable. The hospital, residential colleges, food suppliers and local households were thrown into disarray. Where to eat lunch safely became an important question around the university. After an exceedingly wet winter, just when we hoped the rain would stop and make the grass less muddy, all of a sudden we were gasping for clean water.
We were grateful that the Dunedin City Council moved quickly to avert the kind of catastrophe that occurred in Havelock North in August 2016 where over 5000 people became violently ill with campylobacter because of contaminated water. A general complacency about the safety of drinking water was well and truly shaken by that event. So when and how did Dunedin water become safe?