John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Water crisis near-miss

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The second pipe failure early yesterday morning flooded the excavation area, hampering progress.  Photo/supplied
The second pipe failure early yesterday morning flooded the excavation area, hampering progress. Photo/supplied

A potential water crisis was averted in Tauranga's coastal suburbs yesterday after a trunk water pipe sprang a leak.

The breakage near the Hairini roundabout on Monday evening was on a pipe that supplied Mount Maunganui and Papamoa's three reservoirs.

A council communications adviser said the worst case scenario would have seen the coastal suburbs running out of water sometime today.

The first attempt to fix the leak eight hours after the initial breakage at 6.30pm on Monday failed. It meant that the council faced the prospect of the reservoirs coming under pressure from the morning peak.

Water levels had dropped to a low of 31 per cent at the Poplar Lane reservoir and a high of 63 per cent at Mangatawa by about 9am yesterday, before the next attempt being made to weld the pipe.

This time the repair worked and the pipeline remained stable when it came back on line shortly before 1pm yesterday.

Mr Currin said the 375mm pipe proved difficult to access and reservoir levels had dropped to 27 per cent at the Mauao reservoir and 36 per cent at Mangatawa.

The problems began on Monday after a new section of water main had been laid to accommodate construction of the Welcome Bay underpass through Hairini. When the new pipe was brought on line, a joint in the older section of the pipe failed, probably caused by pipe and ground movement.

If the midday repair had been unsuccessful the council would have contacted the Mount and Papamoa's top 10 industrial water consumers, including the port.

Asked how much the public responded to the water conservation advisory issued at 5.30am yesterday, he said overall water consumption was consistent with average use for this time of the year.

''It was the second of two consecutive dry days, so that would have increased some of the demand.

''The primary value of issuing conservation messages was to start preparing the community for what might have come if the situation had escalated.''

Mr Currin said if the second repair had failed the plan was to feed water back into the Mount/Papamoa network.

The first noticeable signs of issues would have been householders seeing problems with water pressure and water quality.

''If Plan B had encountered further problems, the worst case scenario would have been running out of water sometime during Wednesday. The team were quietly confident that it would turn out okay, but they had to start preparing people in case the worst became reality.''

He was pleased with the big response of views and shares to the call to conserve water on the Mount Maunganui and Papamoa communities' Facebook pages. In the end, the council did not have to resort to extreme measures to conserve water.

The Port of Tauranga said its operation largely relied on water from its own bore.

Council water was used to replenish ships' supplies but the few ships in port yesterday did need to take any on.

Mount Maunganui & Papamoa's water supply
Source: Joyce Rd water treatment works in Pyes Pa
Supplies: Mauao, Mangatawa and Poplar Lane reservoirs
Worst scenario: Reservoirs empty 48 hours after pipe failure

- Bay of Plenty Times

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