Damn Interesting | Watersmith Plumbing and Gas

Just a collection of some damn interesting plumber things…

When it comes to plumbing, sometimes the biggest challenge isn't the clog, but the equine overlord guarding it!

When it comes to plumbing, sometimes the biggest challenge isn’t the clog, but the equine overlord guarding it!

Ah, the life of a plumber. Full of twists, turns, and unexpected encounters with… donkeys? Yes, you read that right. Picture this: A sunny day, the sound of wrenches wrenching, busy at the task at hand—a perplexing plumbing predicament. Just another day on the job, right? Well, not exactly. Little did we know, we were about to get acquainted with the quirky behaviour of, what we thought was, our four-legged friend.

A deafening bray shattered the peaceful morning as a long-eared shadow loomed over our trench. There he stood, the equine overlord himself, a somewhat larger-than-a-horse donkey, with a disapproving glint in his eye. He snorted, pawed the ground with impatience, and gave us a look that could curdle milk. We were clearly trespassing on his sovereign territory.

Then, with a war cry that could rival The Spartans’ last stand, the Bronze-Bellied Battler of the Barley Patch charged. Who knew a routine plumbing job could turn into a scene straight out of an action movie? It’s the stuff of legends, really.

Deciphering Donkey Behavior

Donkeys have distinct behaviours that require a more nuanced understanding than horses. As you spend more time with donkeys, you gradually become familiar with their individual personalities.


  • In the absence of other donkeys, they seek companionship among themselves or with other animals.
  • Introductions to other animals necessitate supervision due to territorial instincts.
  • Separating bonded pairs can cause severe stress-related conditions.

Territorial Instincts:

  • Donkeys exhibit heightened territorial behaviour and are frequently used as livestock guardians.
  • Some donkeys may chase and attack smaller animals, so make cautious introductions.
  • Risks are mitigated through supervised interactions over several weeks.

Learning Aptitude:

  • Donkeys learn continuously from birth, and proper socialisation is essential for behavioural development.
  • Close adherence to natural behaviours promotes faster learning.
  • Training quality determines behavioural outcomes and skilled communication accelerates learning.

Stoic Nature:

  • Donkeys’ body language is less expressive than horses’, making behavioural changes subtle and difficult to understand.
  • Individual donkey familiarity makes it easier to detect subtle behavioural changes.

Behavioural Challenges and Solutions:

  • Root Causes: Behavioural issues can have a variety of causes, including medical conditions, environmental changes, and genetic predispositions.
  • Behavioural Conditioning: Donkeys learn behaviours based on effectiveness rather than moral considerations.
  • Genetic Influence: Donkey behaviour can be inherited or learned through parental interaction during the juvenile stage.
  • Environmental Impact: Domestication can cause boredom and social interaction problems; environmental enrichment is essential.
  • Management Tip: Gradually introduce changes to the environment, assess stressors, and provide mental stimulation.
  • Most Importantly: If tradespeople are calling, keep your donkey in a far-off paddock.

More info:
10 Surprising Facts About Donkeys
Donkey Facts, Pictures & Information, Complete Species Guide

Are you a DIY-obsessed New Zealand homeowner? 

Are you a DIY-obsessed New Zealand homeowner? 

While do-it-yourself has a strong history in this country, it is important to understand that there are limitations when it comes to plumbing. Plumbing is considered restricted work in the interest of health and safety and can only be performed by those who are allowed to do so.

Failure to comply with these regulations can affect your insurance policy. So what kind of plumbing work can homeowners do? Let’s take a closer look.

First, it’s important to understand what is considered restricted work under the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Act 2006 (the Act).

The Act defines sanitary plumbing as the installation of sanitary fixtures and appliances (e.g. toilets, sinks, showers), the pipes and fittings that supply water to those fixtures and appliances, and the associated traps, waste or soil pipes, ventilation pipes, and overflow pipes connected with those fixtures. Essentially, this means that working on any pipework, fittings, or appliances that are connected to a sanitary fixture or appliance is restricted work and can only be done by an authorised person.

However, there are still some plumbing tasks that homeowners are allowed to do. According to the Act, the following tasks are not considered restricted work:

  • Fixing or unfixing a dishwasher or washing machine
  • Repairing or replacing taps, tap washers or plugs, ball valves such as float valves and ball cocks in toilet cisterns
  • Fixing or unfixing a shower over a bath that is supplied with water through the bath taps, such as those with a push-on rubber connection on the outlet of the bath taps

It’s important to note that if any of the above tasks involve fixing or unfixing waste pipes or water supply pipes, they become restricted work and must be carried out by an authorised plumber.

Homeowners can also work on a water reticulation system that doesn’t involve any sanitary fixtures or appliances. For example, if you have a rainwater collection tank that solely feeds your garden’s irrigation system, you’re allowed to run all the pipework for that system. However, if the pipework from the rainwater collection tank also supplies a toilet cistern, then all pipework and fittings, including the irrigation system, must be installed by an authorised plumber.

In summary, while homeowners in New Zealand are allowed to do some plumbing tasks, sanitary plumbing is considered restricted work and can only be done by authorised plumbers. If you’re unsure whether a particular task is restricted, it’s best to contact Watersmith Plumbing and Gas for advice.

By following these regulations, you can ensure that your home’s plumbing is done safely and professionally, giving you peace of mind and a well-functioning plumbing system.

More info:
Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Act 2006
PGDB Legislation

Flooding! It’s New Zealand's Number One Hazard.

Flooding! It’s New Zealand’s Number One Hazard.

Floods are one of New Zealand’s most frequent natural disasters. The number of floods hitting the country in a year is progressively increasing. It used to be common to have a couple of floods a year. Now, it’s around seven, according to the Insurance Council of New Zealand.

And more bad news; we’re not only getting more floods, but they’re also getting worse.

How many one-in-a-hundred-year storms have you heard about in the last couple of years?


One major factor is climate change. Like many other countries, New Zealand is experiencing temperature changes, precipitation patterns, and weather extremes due to global warming. Climate change is leading to more intense and frequent rainfall events, which results in flooding in areas that are generally not prone to it. 

Another contributing factor is land-use change and urbanisation. As land is cleared for agriculture or development, the natural ability of the land to absorb water is reduced, leading to an increase in runoff and higher flood risk. In addition, urbanisation can lead to the construction of buildings and infrastructure in areas that are prone to flooding, increasing the potential for damage from flood events.

It is clear that the country is vulnerable to the impacts of flooding. With our continued insistence to build on river flood planes, it is important for policymakers and communities to work together to develop strategies to mitigate the risks of flooding and adapt to the changing climate.

Some Facts About Flooding

  • Not only common in New Zealand, but flooding is also the most common natural disaster in the world, affecting millions of people every year.
  • Floods can occur in any part of the world, coastal or inland, and can be caused by a variety of factors, including heavy rainfall, storms, snowmelt, dam or levee failures, and tsunamis.
  • Floods can be sudden or slow-moving and, as seen up North, can cause significant damage to homes, businesses, roads, bridges, other infrastructure, and the environment.
  • Floodwaters can be contaminated with sewage, chemicals, and other hazardous materials, posing a risk to human health and the environment.
  • Floods can have a significant impact on agriculture and food, causing crop damage and livestock losses.
  • Floods can displace communities and cause significant social disruption, leading to long-term economic and health impacts.
  • Floods can have long-term impacts on the environment, including changes to river channels and ecosystems, and increased erosion and sedimentation.

How to Reduce the Risk of Flooding in Your Home

Overall, flooding can have significant impacts on individuals, communities, and the environment, so it’s important to be prepared and take steps to reduce the risk. As a homeowner, you can take several steps to prevent flood damage to your property:

  • Ensure proper drainage: Ensure that the drainage system around your home is working properly, and that rainwater can easily flow away from your property. Make sure your gutters, downspouts, and drains are clear of debris and functioning properly.
  • Install flood-proofing measures: Consider installing flood-proofing measures such as sealing cracks in your foundation or installing backflow valves on your pipes to prevent water from backing up into your home.
  • Elevate appliances and electrical equipment: Consider elevating appliances such as washing machines and dryers, as well as electrical equipment such as circuit breakers and heating systems, to prevent damage from floodwater.
  • Store valuable items at higher levels: Store valuable items and important documents in higher areas of your home to prevent them from getting damaged in the event of flooding.
  • Secure outdoor items: Move outdoor items to higher ground to prevent them from becoming projectiles during a flood.
  • Plan and prepare: Stay informed about the risk of flooding in your area and be prepared to take action if necessary. Monitor weather reports and listen to local emergency services for updates. Develop an evacuation plan and have an emergency supply kit on hand in case of a flood.
  • Purchase insurance: Flood insurance can help protect you against the financial losses associated with flooding, but it may not cover all costs, so it’s important to understand what is and is not covered.
  • Practice good water management habits: Avoid pouring fats, oils, and grease down the drain, and dispose of household hazardous waste properly to prevent blockages in the sewer system that can lead to flooding.

More info:
Be prepared, make a plan
Get ready
New Zealand Flood History

When should you get rid of Dux Quest in your home? "Yesterday" is the correct answer.

When should you get rid of Dux Quest in your home? “Yesterday” is the correct answer.

Behind many walls and under many floors is one of the biggest problems plaguing plumbing in New Zealand—black-coloured plastic pipes branded; Dux Quest.

Dux Quest pipe is unreliable and bedevilled by problems. It is notorious for splitting, along the pipes or at the plastic joins, causing leaks throughout your home. If the leak occurs behind the wall and begins to rot the weatherboards and jib, you may be looking at exorbitant replacement costs.

Dux Quest was introduced to New Zealand as one of the first plastic plumbing products to replace copper pipes in the mid to late 1970s. Commonly used throughout the ’70s and ‘80s it was installed in an estimated 20,000—40,000 homes. The product made news headlines in the late ‘80s as it began to fail in homes across the country, prompting the maker, Dux Industries, to withdraw the product from the market.

How do you know if you have Dux Quest?

The colour of Dux Quest is usually black and it looks like plastic similar to the piping that is used for a garden sprinkler system. There is often a Dux Quest or Quest brand inscribed in white along areas of the black piping. If your house was built between 1970 and 1989 and hasn’t been renovated, it’s likely to have Dux Quest plumbing.

So what’s the issue?

Insurers don’t like Dux Quest plumbing. There have been numerous claims of it breaking and causing significant water damage. In fact, the product has caused so many problems in New Zealand that many insurance providers put an exclusion on the policy for Dux Quest plumbing. In addition, when it comes to Dux Quest, most insurance providers will only cover the first leak, leaving you to foot the tab for any further problems.

Replacement is essential

At this point, we recommend that you replace all Dux Quest pipes with newer modern pipework to avoid major problems in the future. It may seem like a major job, but it’s better to have the warranty of new plumbing and your house insured again for future leaks.

Get in touch to discuss replacing existing pipes or inspecting your home for Dux Qest plumbing.

Poo Probe -- the Science Underpinning the Detection of Covid-19 in Wastewater

Poo Probe—the Science Underpinning the Detection of Covid-19 in Wastewater

Wastewater testing for Covid-19 began in April 2020, with the goal of providing an early warning of outbreaks and serving as an additional surveillance tool.

Since then, science has advanced and the number of sites has continuously increased. ESR now conducts regular wastewater testing from several locations in Auckland along with Christchurch, Rotorua, Hamilton, and Wellington.

Wastewater testing is not a new concept; ESR routinely analyses wastewater for viruses and illegal drugs.

There are two ways to take wastewater samples.

Automated Composite Sample is the preferable option. This is where a pump gathers a tiny volume of wastewater automatically every 15 minutes for 24 hours. Most wastewater treatment plants already have these in place, and the majority of samples are collected in this manner.

While many treatment plants have these samplers, some do not, and if scientists want to investigate a specific location, they must employ Grab Sampling, which involves obtaining a sample directly from the wastewater, usually via a manhole.

One litre samples are then dispatched to ESR’s laboratory in Wellington for analysis.

ESR uses up to half the sample (500ml is stored should later tests be required, or to confirm an unexpected result) and concentrates it down to roughly half a teaspoon, removing all the water while leaving the virus behind.

From there it’s the same process as regular testing for the virus of someone’s swab—they extract the viruses, turn the RNA into DNA and run it on a PCR to tell if the sample is positive or negative for the virus.

So, how effective is the surveillance? Very! There are many factors that affect detection, however, so far, the tests have proven sensitive enough to discover about 10 cases in an area of 100,000 people. A positive detection in the wastewater indicates that at least one person has been shedding Covid-19 into the wastewater in the 24 hours before each sample was collected.

Sewage testing, on a whole, is a great method of early disease detection and over time can offer trend data that can be used to supplement other surveillance data used to influence public health decisions.

More info:
ESR Wastewater (FAQs)
Tracking COVID-19 with wastewater
CDC Wastewater Surveillance

Plumbing = Lead

Plumbing = Lead

The word ‘plumbing’ is derived from the Latin word ‘plumbum’, meaning Lead. Hence the reason the symbol for lead on the periodic table is ‘Pb’. Lead was the material used for the ancient aqueduct systems of the Roman Empire.

It’s been years since lead was outlawed from being used in household products such as paint and later in plumbing materials. Despite this, lead is still a serious hidden risk to homes and families in New Zealand.

Lead poisoning is a concerning and under-recognised public health issue. Lead is one of 10 chemicals that the World Health Organization (WHO) considers to be of significant public health concern.

Lead absorption can harm the brain and nervous system development of young children (including the fetus) where the damage is thought to be irreversible. Lead exposure in adults can result in long-term consequences such as an increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage. Lead absorption in pregnant women can result in miscarriages, stillbirth, premature birth, and low birth weight.

The most common felons of lead exposure are paint chips, paint particles, and soil. However, one historically de-emphasised culprit is drinking water. Due to an aging infrastructure, traces of lead in our water supply is becoming a widespread problem. A problem escalated by another concerning issue in our industry—cheap, non-certified plumbing products in our homes.

Even though water is a known source of lead exposure, the facts are still clouded and there’s a number of myths out there. For instance, did you know that heating or boiling water will not remove lead and, instead, increases its level of concentration?

More info:
Common Myths about Lead in Drinking Water
10 Myths About Lead in Drinking Water
Lead poisoning in children and in adults

One of the World’s Deadliest Infrastructure Projects

One of the World’s Deadliest Infrastructure Projects

Although not technically a plumbing feat, the Panama Canal, with over 80km of artificial waterways, is still regarded as a crowning achievement of 20th-century—to compare a scale, if you live in Wellington that’s nearly four times the width of the Cook Strait!

It was one of the largest and most difficult infrastructure projects ever undertaken, unfortunately, it was also one of the deadliest. More than 75,000 workers laboured on the Panama Canal and about 30,000 of them died building it. Most were French and West Indian workers who died of yellow fever and malaria.

The Canal was completed in 1914, although the US is credited for the building the Panama Canal, it actually only just completed what the French first started in 1881.

The Canal cuts through Isthmus of Panama and is a channel for maritime vessels. The conduit is a shortcut that greatly reduces the time for ships to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and avoids the lengthy, hazardous Cape Horn route around the southernmost tip of South America.

The Canal uses an arrangement of locks that operate as water lifts, raising ships from sea level, at the Pacific or the Atlantic, to the level of Gatun Lake, an incredible 26 meters above sea level.

Mostly used by China and the US, traffic through the Panama Canal is a barometer of world trade. Last year (2019), the Canal registered a total of 13,785 transits, transporting 252 million long tons of goods, and generating tolls that totalled 2,592 million US dollars.

Here are some more interesting figures:

  • 14,000 ships and 260 million tons of merchandise cross the Canal annually.
  • 5% of world maritime traffic uses the Panama Canal.
  • 82 kilometres—length of the Canal.
  • 26 hours—time necessary to cross the Canal, including wait-times (8-10 hours without wait-time).
  • 26 meters—the difference in altitude between the highest point of the Canal and sea level.
  • 60 centimetres—space separating the hull of a Panamax vessel (the largest the Canal can currently accommodate) from the bank during passage through its narrowest locks.
  • US$375,600—the most expensive regular toll for Canal passage to date, paid by the cruise ship Norwegian Pearl in 2010.
  • US$54,000—the average toll.
  • 36 cents—the lowest toll ever paid by American Richard Halliburton who swam the Panama Canal in 1928.

More info:
The Panama Canal’s forgotten casualties
How Does the Panama Canal Work?
Live Marine Traffic, Density Map and Current Position of ships in PANAMA CANAL

How Hot Water Cylinders Work

How Hot Water Cylinders Work

Most of us don’t think much about how our water is heated as long as it’s hot when we turn on the tap or get into the shower.

Depending on the time of the year the water, coming into your house through a succession of pipes, is usually cold or cool. To have a hot shower or a bath, the water needs to be heated—that’s where the hot water cylinder comes into play.

Hot water cylinders are familiar fixtures in most Wellington and Lower Hutt homes. Typically they’re a large metal cylinder located in a cupboard, laundry or basement.

The purpose of a hot water cylinder is to store hot water required for household use. It’s basically a water-filled drum, equipped with a heating apparatus on the bottom or inside.

For something so ordinary-looking on the outside, hot water cylinders have a clever design on the inside.

A dip tube feeds cold water, from your home’s water pipes to the bottom of the tank’s interior where the water starts to warm up. The heating mechanism, whether a burner or an electrical element, is controlled by a thermostat and remains on until the water reaches the set temperature.

As the water inside heats, it rises where it can be drawn out through a hot water outlet pipe at the top of the cylinder. The key to a water cylinder’s design for separating cold, incoming water from hot, outgoing water is that it takes advantage of the principle that heat rises. The water sitting at the top of the cylinder and flowing out to the faucet is always the hottest because it’s the nature of hot water to rise above the denser, colder water at the bottom.

The recommended hot water temperature setting should be 60 degrees Celsius at the cylinder (to prevent the growth of legionella bacteria) and no more than 55 degrees Celsius at the tap so you don’t get burnt (kids).

Interesting Facts

New Zealander Lloyd Mandeno developed one of the world’s first electric storage hot water cylinders for use in the world’s first electric storage house. The original hot water cylinder was built of corrugated iron with pumice insulation. The corrugated copper cylinder still forms the basis for the modern low-pressure electric cylinder and is found in nearly two-thirds of all NZ homes, the highest market penetration in the world. Today, hot water cylinders consume one-twelfth of all NZ’s electricity, and about a third of all household electricity.

More info: 
The search for the oldest hot water cylinder
Types of water heating systems
Need your hot water cylinder repaired, upgraded, replaced or relocated?

Houston, we have a problem here

Houston, we have a problem here

Screeches, whistles, bangs and clanks caused by the plumbing in your home can be a cause for concern and a nuisance, however, the type of noise generated by your pipes can a be a good indication of what the problem is.

So before you go out and buy some Beats Headphones, let’s look at some common causes and how to fix them.

Water Hammer

Perhaps the most unsettling sound that your pipes will ever make is a loud bang when the flow is turned off. This is commonly known as water hammer.

Water rushing through the pipe and out the faucet moves fast and with force. At the point when you shut off the faucet, the water stream is brought to a sudden stop. But that energy has to go somewhere. Normally in the wall behind each faucet is an air chamber in the pipe.

In older houses, the chamber used to be a small section of vertical pipe. When the surging water is halted it pushes up the vertical pipe and hits a cushion of air. This prevents the force of the water from causing the pipes to clatter and hammer.

Water hammering can develop because over time, the air in the chambers is lost and they fill with water, hence the cushioning effect is lost.

Nowadays, there are more effective commercial air cushions or spring-loaded hammer arrestors that are connected to the pipe in the same place. Unlike air chambers, modern arrestors do the same job but never become waterlogged.

You can get rid of water hammering by shutting off the main supply water, opening all faucets and then draining the whole house from the lowest faucet. When you turn the water back on, air will again be restored into the risers designed to prevent water hammer.

Loose Pipes

Another cause of noisy water pipes is a loose pipe under your house. Draining water moving quickly and in large volumes can cause a pipe to rock, setting up a rattling effect.

Drain pipes are usually suspended from the joists under the house and a little stabilisation may be all that’s required. You should be able to find the source by crawling under the house and listening while someone flushes the toilet above.

Worn Out Washer

A worn-out washer in a faucet or valve can often cause whistling or squeaky pipes. If a faucet’s washer is worn or the valve seat is worn it causes water to be forced through a small opening setting up the noisy pipes.

To fix the squealing replace worn or cracked washers or reseat worn faucets.

Main Shut-Off Valve

Another source of noisy water pipes, particularly when it seems to resonate throughout the whole house, can be either the main shut-off valve for the house or the water pressure.

It’s best to hire a professional plumber to repair or replace the main house valve, or look at your water pressure and repair or replace your water pressure regulator.


Yet another loud noise problem can come from the toilet. After flushing, if you hear a banging or rattling at the end of the filling cycle, then it is likely to be a worn-out ballcock assembly, which controls the filling process.

Depending on the ballcock style and assembly, you might be able to repair it, otherwise, replace it with a better one.

Loud water pipes aren’t only annoying, but plumbing problems can develop. Fortunately, most of the problems above can be fixed on your own, but as always, if you need help get in touch with Watersmith Plumbing.

Celebrating Mario's 35th anniversary -- how did a moustached plumber in bib-overalls gain such huge popularity?

Celebrating Mario’s 35th anniversary—how did a moustached plumber in bib-overalls gain such huge popularity?

In 1981 the world was introduced to one of the most iconic characters in computer game history, a carpenter called Jumpman attempting to spare his better half from an overgrown gorilla named Donkey Kong.

Donkey Kong was an instant arcade hit and brought in $180 million in its first year alone.

By the time the ‘90s came around, Jumpman had not only rescued his girl from her mammoth kidnapper, he’d taken on plumbing lessons, was renamed to Mario, and had become the face of Nintendo itself. 

The pudgy Italian plumber has now starred in over 200 video games, gen­erating profits in the billions. Mario has become a global pop culture icon, even to people who don’t play video games. He’s appeared in cartoons, on TV, in movies, has a Theme Park, and pops-up as fancy-dress and on merchandise all around the world. 

With its precise controls, Super Mario Bros. is frequently praised as one of the greatest video games of all time. The Mario Bros. series has sold more than 240 million units worldwide.

The Mario character was conceived in Japan by Japanese game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, although the design was based on the comic strip Popeye. Workers at Nintendo in the U.S. called the character “Mario” in light of the fact that he looked like the property’s landlord, Mario Segale. 

On July 15, 1983, Nintendo jumped out of the arcade and into millions of homes for the first time, with the release of the console Family Computer. The system came bundled with the game Super Mario Bros. So if you bought the console, you got the game as well. This helped drive massive sales. Video games and Mario soon became a household phenomenon. 

Riding the wave of success, Nintendo deliberately programmed Mario into a multitude of innovative video games. In many cases, he wasn’t even the central plot. Quite simply, Nintendo made Mario their quality symbol. If Mario put his approval stamp on the game, you knew it was a goodie.

This year as part of its anniversary commemorations, Nintendo has unveiled plans to re-release most of Super Mario’s 35-year back catalogue, remastered for Nintendo Switch.

Here’s to celebrating the short chubby plumber named Mario, who millions of us grew up with during the 80s and 90s.

More info: 
The best Super Mario games
Super Mario
Super Nintendo World theme park

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