Working with Fire and Emergency to save millions of litres of water


Fire and Emergency crews in Auckland are set to save millions of litres of water, thanks to a bit of kiwi ingenuity prompted by Auckland’s drought.

Auckland firefighters are now using adapted skips to save water when carrying out one of their most important firefighting training – pump training.

“Pump training can use millions of litres of water,” Fire and Emergency group manager Chris Delfos says.

“Most firefighters need about 20 hours to prepare themselves for the course, and over that period they could use up to 2.8 million litres of water.

“Last summer, when Auckland was still recovering from drought and restrictions were in place, we agreed to stop using water for training. We wanted to do our part to save water.

“But pump training is such an integral part of becoming a firefighter, we had to look outside the box and find a more sustainable solution long-term.

“We came up with the idea of recycling water in this modified skip bin.

“The skip is filled with water, and then pumped out using a small portable pump to simulate a hydrant. That supplies water to the large pump, and when a firefighter is training with it, the water is squirted back into the skip.”

When it was clear the idea worked, we came on board to cover the cost of getting five more which will be strategically placed at Fire and Emergency sites around Auckland.

The first two units will go to the Māngere station and the Mt Wellington Regional Training Centre, while the next three will be heading to Silverdale, Papakura and Glen Eden.

Watercare chief customer officer Amanda Singleton is delighted to see the pump units now in action.

“Water is a precious resource, and it is important for us to continue looking for opportunities to save every drop we can. At the same time, we recognise our firefighters need water to train. Our collective challenge was to find ways to achieve the same standard of training without using highly treated drinking water.”

The amount of water saved for each firefighter who undertakes a pump course is equivalent to the water needs of about 17,000 people for one day.

“Fire and Emergency was really supportive of our water-saving efforts while we recovered from drought – even moving the training outside of Auckland.  We will continue to work closely with them to not only grow the number of pump units, but also explore other ways of achieving even greater savings,” Singleton says.

“We are already looking at a firefighting simulator that uses virtual reality to provide realistic training scenarios without the use of any water.  This will be piloted in 2022.