National Wastewater Testing Programme - Quarter 1 2020

National Wastewater Testing Programme - Quarter 1 2020

Date Published: 
August 2020

Results are now available for the first quarter (2020) of nationwide wastewater testing, which covers around 75% of New Zealand’s population.

The drugs that have been tested for are methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, MDMA and fentanyl.

Key findings – November 2019 - January 2020 (Q1 2020)

  • Average weekly use of the detected drugs in Q1 2020 has an estimated street value of $8.3 million.


  • Methamphetamine remains the most commonly detected illicit drug nationwide, accounting for approximately 57 percent of drugs detected nationwide.
  • Methamphetamine use decreased moderately throughout Q1 2020, and observed the lowest average use when compared to the previous three quarters
  • Average national weekly methamphetamine decreased slightly from 13.6 kg in Q4 2019 to 13.1 kg in Q1 2020.
  • Detected average methamphetamine use during the Q1 2020 period translates to an estimated 16 million dollars ($16,230,900) per week in social harm. Annually, this could equate to 844 million dollars ($844,006,800).
  • Methamphetamine use is most prevalent per capita in the Eastern, Northland, and Bay of Plenty Police Districts.


  • MDMA was the second most commonly detected illicit drug across the country, with approximately 38 percent of drugs detected in Q1 2020 identified as MDMA.
  • MDMA consumption increased slightly throughout Q1 2020, continuing the upward trend observed over the previous three quarters of reporting. National MDMA consumption increased from a weekly average of 8.2 kg in Q4 2019 to 8.7 kg in Q1 2020.
  • Per capita, MDMA use was most prevalent in Southern District throughout Q1 2020, followed by Tāmaki Makaurau and Canterbury.


  • National cocaine consumption increased from a weekly average of 1 kg in Q4 2019 to 1.2 kg in Q1 2020, an increase of 16 percent between quarters.
  • In Q1 2020, per capita cocaine use was significantly higher in the Auckland region than anywhere else in the country.
  • This indicates a much smaller user base and likely reflects less demand and supply associated with the drug.

Fentanyl and Heroin

  • Fentanyl was rarely detected above the limit of quantification in Q1 2020, and no patterns of use are apparent. Heroin was not detected at any of the testing sites during Q1 2020.
  • These results are consistent with other indicators that the opiate user population in New Zealand is very low.