Wastewater: how wastewater is managed in New Zealand

Wastewater is the biggest waste by volume in New Zealand. Approximately 1.5 billion litres of domestic wastewater is discharged into the environment daily. Wastewater is water used for washing or flushing which therefore contains waste.

This page provides information on how New Zealand manages wastewater and provides links to further information about waste water.

What New Zealand is doing to manage wastewater

Sewage treatment practices have changed significantly in recent years. Changes include the reuse of sewage sludge and effluent on land, and the emergence of new technologies for the treatment of sewage.

Management of wastewater is a responsibility of local councils under the Local Government Act.

The Ministry for the Environment partners with Water New Zealand [Water NZ website] to develop initiatives which improve the country's environmental performance in the area of wastewater.

Joint initiatives to manage wastewater include:

  • Redrafting and publication of NZS 9201: Part 23 – Model Trade Waste Bylaw, which has been provided to all local authorities. More than 90 per cent of local authorities have a trade waste bylaw, or are preparing one. Copies of the Model Trade Waste Bylaw are available from Standards New Zealand [PDF, 104 KB] [Standards NZ website]. 
  • Development, trial and implementation of a waste tracking system – WasteTRACK [WasteTRACK website]. We are working with liquid waste contractors, local authorities, and waste generators to implement the system for tracking liquid and hazardous wastes.
  • Guidelines for the Safe Application of Biosolids to Land [PDF, 848 KB] and redrafting of the Oxidation Pond Guidelines [PDF, 1.68 MB] [Water New Zealand website].

Other Ministry initiatives and publications

Other relevant initiatives and publications developed by the Ministry include:

  • The Wastewater Monitoring Guidelines – a guide to help regional and district councils develop monitoring programmes that reflect the true environmental risk posed by individual wastewater treatment systems.

Find out more

Locations of wastewater treatment sites [Water New Zealand website].