Half of Timaru’s water supply, and 9 of 12 water schemes in the district are supplied with water from the Opihi River- a fact not many might know.
But for Timaru District Council water services operations engineer Judy Blakemore, knowing exactly what is going on in the water space has become the lifeblood of her job for more than a decade.
Judy’s role is managing the water takes, water treatment, pump stations and sewer pump stations and sewer discharge.
“My role is not dissimilar to the doctor's- keeping people healthy. Water quality certainly has a huge impact on people's health, hence why I'm so involved in some of the catchment groups.”
The Opihi River’s high quality water has made it the most ideal source of water in the district. The water is disinfected using UV, and in Timaru using ozone followed by chlorine. The district council works hard to ensure the drinking water standards are met.
“I think we're good at delivering reliable and safe water. But that means the community take it for granted and they don’t realise the importance and the processes that go into providing that,” Judy says.
When the Opihi River Regional Plan came into force in the early 2000s, it meant the council’s previously unrestricted water take, was now limited, and effluent discharge into the river was banned. As a result, the district council started discharging its effluent into the sea, and the reliability of its water now comes from its status as a shareholder in the Opuha Dam Company.