National Environmental Standard for Sources of Human Drinking Water

Why we have the National Environmental Standard for Sources of Human Drinking Water and what regional councils must do to comply with the standard.

The Government is reviewing drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services (The Three Waters Review)

The review is seeking to give New Zealanders confidence that:

  • drinking water is safe to use
  • sources of drinking water are adequately protected
  • wastewater and stormwater are managed in environmentally sustainable ways.

As part of this review, the Government is proposing amendments to the National Environmental Standard for Sources of Human Drinking.  The aim is to strengthen the ability of regional councils and territorial authorities to manage risks to drinking water posed by activities in drinking water catchments.  Find out more and have your say

Link to the NES

What the NES is

The National Environmental Standard for Sources of Human Drinking Water (NES) is a regulation made under the Resource Management Act (1991) that sets requirements for protecting sources of human drinking water from becoming contaminated. 

It came into effect on 20 June 2008.

For the purpose of this NES, a human drinking water source is a natural water body such as a lake, river or groundwater that is used to supply a community with drinking water. The standard applies to source water before it is treated and only sources used to supply human drinking water ie, not stock or other animals.

This NES complements Ministry of Health legislation for improving drinking water supply and delivery. This ensures a comprehensive approach to managing drinking water from source to tap.

Why it is needed

Contaminants such as microorganisms can pose a risk to human health when they enter drinking water supplies and that water is then consumed. Taking steps to prevent such contaminants from entering drinking water sources is part of a multiple barrier approach to reduce this risk to people.

What it does

The NES requires regional councils to ensure that effects of activities on drinking water sources are considered in decisions on resource consents and regional plans.

Specifically regional councils are required to:

  • decline discharge or water permits that are likely to result in community drinking water becoming unsafe for human consumption following existing treatment
  • be satisfied that permitted activities in regional plans will not result in community drinking water supplies being unsafe for human consumption following existing treatment
  • place conditions on relevant resource consents that require notification of drinking water suppliers if significant unintended events occur (eg, spills) that may adversely affect sources of human drinking water.


Draft users' guide: NES for Sources of Human Drinking Water 
Plain-English implementation guidance. 

A guide to the Ministry of Health drinking-water standards for New Zealand 
Beginners’ guide to understanding the parts of the NZ drinking-water standards considered most relevant to the implementation of the NES.

Other information

A database of registered drinking water sources was established in 2009 to assist with the implementation of the NES. 

The database contains drinking water source abstraction points and drinking water treatment plants. The information was obtained from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research who maintain the Water Information New Zealand database on behalf of the Ministry of Health.

The database also contains some information on individual treatment plant compliance with the Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand 2005. This assists councils to determine whether drinking water from an individual treatment plant meets the health quality criteria referred to in regulations 4 and 5 of the NES.

The database was sent to all regional councils for integration with existing regional council GIS systems.

Additional information on the locations of registered drinking water sources is available from a drinking water assessor in the public health unit of your local district health board.

Public health unit contacts [Ministry of Health website]

Drinking water Standards for New Zealand 2005 (Revised 2008) [Ministry of Health website]

Material incorporated by reference

The Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Sources of Human Drinking Water) Regulations 2007 incorporate the following material by reference:

Drinking-water Standards for New Zealand 2005 (Revised 2008) [Ministry of Health website]

This incorporated material can be inspected by appointment free of charge from the Ministry for the Environment’s head office at the following address.

Environment House
23 Kate Sheppard Place
Wellington 6011
New Zealand

To make an appointment to inspect the incorporated material, please contact the Ministry for the Environment:

Phone: (04) 439 7537

Photocopying of incorporated material will not be permitted.

Find out more

Cabinet papers and related materials

Drinking-water legislation [Ministry of Health website]

For more information on the NES contact: