Dangers of private water supplies highlighted by toddler's near death experience

Two year old Albertine Morken has a smile back on her face and her appetite has come back.

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The Hawke’s Bay toddler contracted a strain of E.coli likely from her parents’ private drinking water. Source: 1 NEWS

A relief for father Daniel and mother Zoe after a severe gastro infection. 

“We’ve just seen her progressively get better, more energy, more colour in her face.” Mr Morken told 1 NEWS.

But three weeks ago she wasn’t so rosy, after contracting Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), a hard to detect gastro infection caused by a strain of E.coli.

Hospital staff prepared Mr Morken for the worst. 

“They said we won’t tell your wife this but you have to realise there is a chance she could die here.”

She was rushed from Hawke's Bay to Auckland's Starship hospital as the infection attacked her kidneys and red blood cells.

It was traumatic to watch for her mother who was in the late stages of pregnancy with their second child.

She said all doctors could do was support Albertine's organs and hope for the best. 

Her kidney function dropped to 13 per cent, but after two blood transfusions she began to improve.

The family blame their drinking water, which comes from an underground spring.

It had already tested positive for E.coli and they were boiling water as they waited for a UV filter.

They say Albertine was still having baths and playing with hoses and taps outside in the hot weather.

Private water supplies are a risk for an estimated half a million people.

Raymond Burr from Q-Labs in Central Hawke's Bay says more are testing their water.

“We really need to be more aware of the fact that rural drinking water is not treated so you are exposing that water supply for human consumption to E.coli.”

After the Havelock North water crisis the government announced there'll be a new water regulator to ensure the safety of drinking water, but private systems will remain the owner's responsibility.

Water New Zealand scientist Jim Graham is urging people to buy treatment systems.

“They need to realise that you can become ill from any water supply that is not properly looked after so my advice is to probably I have the water tested for contaminants probably a couple of times a year.”

Albertine’s parents are urging people to do the same.

“I don't want a child to die - that's the reason we wanted to share our story because gosh this could happen to anyone.”

And while little Albertine does have serious kidney damage, it's hoped she'll make a full recovery.