Otago Polytechnic
Our third water tank delivered Hazel Owen 11 Dec 1010 CC BY NC ND 3.0

How safe is your water?

Nursing students have been helping rural communities protect their health.

On farms and in small townships around New Zealand water tanks are a common sight. Some collect water from roofs, others store water pumped in. In the community of Warrington all dwellings for the population of 450 are reliance on tank water. Their water comes from the Mount Grand water treatment station but is it still clean by the time it comes out of the taps?

Nursing students Laura Shaw, Devon Kilkelly and Charlotte Hay, supervised by Dr Jean Ross, investigated the health issues associated with these water tanks. Tanks that are not maintained regularly accumulate sludge in the bottom - a combination of algae, sediment, and slime which can even include bird or animal faeces and carcasses. The recommendation is that tanks should be inspected every six months, for example to ensure that the lid is well fitted, and cleaned out every three years.

The students developed a campaign to raise awareness of this health issue. They produced prototypes of a fridge magnet, and a leaflet which provided information about the risks and recommendations and also advised how residents could clean out their tanks themselves. They wrote a contribution to the Blueskin Bay community newsletter, which is published in hard copy and online, and have written to the Dunedin City Council to ask for the leaflet and fridge magnet to be included in a mailout of rates bills to this district.

Read more about working with our students.

Image credit: Hazel Owen, used under Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

August 2018