National environmental standards for sources of human drinking water

They set requirements for protecting sources of human drinking water from becoming contaminated.

Official title

Resource Management (National Environmental Standard for Sources of Human Drinking Water) Regulations 2007

Lead agency

MfE with support from the Department of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Health

In force from

20 June 2008

Proposed amendments

These amendments are part of the drinking water regulatory reforms being progressed through the Three Waters Review.

MfE has completed a review of the NESPublic consultation is likely to take place later in 2021.

Find out about the Three Waters Review

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.

The National Environmental Standards for Sources of Human Drinking Water (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.

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.

Sources of registered drinking water sources

A database of registered drinking water sources was established in 2009 to assist with the implementation of the NES. It contains drinking water source abstraction points and drinking water treatment plants. The information is 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]

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.

What you need to refer to

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

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

Drinking-water legislation [Ministry of Health website]

For more information on the NES contact: