Frequently Asked Questions

I am building a house – where can I find information on the standards and Regulations that apply to my sanitation system?

Relevant details and guidance can be found on the website of the Cook Islands Ministry of Health

or here at:

Additional information and advice can be obtained from a drainlayer registered in the Cooks islands, or from the staff of WATSAN or the Ministry of Health’s Public Health team.

How much does it cost to build a sanitation system?

The cost of a new on-site sanitation system varies depending on the type of treatment required, the type of land application system to be used, and the number of people who will be using the system.  For a single home where four to six people live, a modern system with proper land disposal is likely to cost between $10,000 and $15,000.

What does a Land Application System do?

The Land Application System (LAS) receives the treated wastewater from your septic tank or wastewater treatment plant and disperses it safely into the land.  Depending on the type of system used, additional treatment processes within the LAS also further reduce levels of contaminants such as bacteria and nutrients.

What maintenance do I need to do on my sanitation system?

For a simple septic tank system, desludging of the tank should be conducted periodically by a specialist contractor.  Depending on the size and type of use of the septic tank desludging will be required once every 3 – 5 years.  In addition, it is important to check regularly that all pumps, valves and pipework associated with your system are free from damage and are functioning normally.

If you have a more advanced wastewater treatment systems (“secondary” or “advanced” treatment) it is a requirement of the law that you have a maintenance contract with a drainlayer registered in the Cook Islands.  The drainlayer will conduct regular –probably annual – maintenance checks and advise you of any work that is required to be done.

What happens if my system does not comply with the law?

If your system does not comply with the law, staff from WATSAN and the Public Health division of the Ministry of Health will provide you with advice, direction and a time-frame for work to be carried out to achieve compliance.  After that you will have to engage a drainlayer registered in the Cook Islands to work with you to bring the system into compliance within the required time-frame.

I don’t live in the pilot area of Muri-Avana, can WATSAN help me with my sanitation system

At this stage, financial assistance for system upgrades is available only for owners of properties in the Muri-Avana pilot area.  Under the upcoming SUP, homeowners in areas of Rarotonga and Aitutaki that are not allocated for future reticulation will be able to apply for the subsidised upgrade to their sanitation systems.

WATSAN staff and our colleagues at the Ministry of Health can however provide you with advice and guidance regarding all aspects of your sanitation system.

Please contact WATSAN on 22-648 if we can assist.