Some properties source their water from private bores, which draw from aquifers under the ground

It is important that private bores (including wells) are secure to protect groundwater and your health. You should also regularly test your bore water to make sure the water you drink meets the Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand

A joint public meeting held by the ORC, Queenstown Lakes District Council and the Southern District Health Board in March 2021 covered all aspects of groundwater quality and bore security.

If you take water from a private bore water supply, please watch this video.

Protecting your borehead from groundwater contamination

Although groundwater can be a good water source, poor bore security (such as when contaminants enter through the bore casing or cap) can serve as a pathway for contamination of our precious aquifers. This poses a significant risk to water quality and human health.

It is very important that boreheads are properly secured. To keep your borehead secure:

  • have a concrete apron around the borehead
  • make sure the bore casing is intact and in good condition
  • elevate the borehead above ground level
  • install a backflow prevention device to avoid contaminants being siphoned into the bore
  • exclude stock from the area around the borehead
  • avoid storing chemicals/dangerous substances near the borehead
  • keep the area around the bore tidy.

These measures are designed to prevent water and contaminants from entering the aquifer via the bore. Some things are part of bore construction, while others are maintenance activities.

For more information, please read the following resources:

Test your bore water regularly

The best way to check your water quality is to collect a water sample and have it tested by an independently accredited IANZ laboratory.


Arsenic is a naturally occurring chemical element, present at low levels in many soils, water, plants, animals and foods. The main way people are exposed to arsenic is through the small amounts of this element that are naturally present in food and drinking water.

The geology of an aquifer can naturally elevate arsenic concentrations. However, arsenic levels in an aquifer can be relatively localised and highly variable. Arsenic concentrations may also be different in each ground or surface water source and may change over time.

The presence of naturally occurring arsenic in groundwater is not unique to Otago and has been reported in other parts of the country (e.g. Hawke’s Bay, Waikato, Manawatu, Marlborough, Canterbury) and internationally.

If you are considering a new water source, make sure the water quality is suitable before you invest resources in developing the supply for drinking and sanitation. You can do this by collecting a water sample and having it analysed by an accredited laboratory. You should specifically request analysis for arsenic, as some test suites do not automatically contain arsenic. It is important to routinely test your bore water for arsenic as concentrations can fluctuate with water levels.

Who is responsible?

  • Regional councils are responsible for managing source catchments (under the Resource Management Act).

  • Water suppliers are responsible for the water supply from the point of abstraction to the property (under the Water Services Act 2021). If you own or operate a water supply that you know (or ought reasonably to know) is being used as drinking water by people outside your own home, you are a drinking water supplier and will have responsibilities under the Water Services Act 2021. Refer to the Taumata Arowai website for further information:

  • Self-suppliers are covered by the Building Act 2004, which requires any building intended for use as a dwelling to have an adequate and convenient supply of potable water. Self-suppliers must assure themselves that their water is safe.

  • Taumata Arowai is the Crown entity established as the water services regulator.

    The table has contacts for advice for water suppliers and individual bore/well users.

Health Protection Officers

Te Whatu Ora / Public Health South

Phone: 03 476 9800 (Dunedin)
Phone: 03 450 9156 (Queenstown)

Environmental Health Officer

Dunedin City Council

Phone: 03 477 4000

Queenstown Lake District Council

Phone: 03 441 0499

Central Otago District Council – Alexandra

Phone: 03 440 0056

Waitaki District Council – Oamaru

Phone: 03 433 0300 or 0800 108 081

Clutha District Council – Balclutha

Phone: 03 419 0200 or 0800 801 350

Groundwater Scientists

Otago Regional Council

Phone: 0800 474 082

Regulator for water suppliers

Taumata Arowai

Phone: 04 889 8350

Page last updated 7 July 2024.