Council urges sensible water use this summer

Published on 18 November 2020

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Despite average levels of rainfall predicted this summer, Far North District Council is urging all businesses and residents to prepare for the need to conserve water ahead of an anticipated influx of holiday visitors.

Far North Mayor John Carter says the growing consensus among weather forecasters is that a La Niña weather pattern will dominate summer bringing more north-easterly winds and a higher chance of warm, wet conditions to the district. However, he is warning the Far North is unlikely to see rainfall above average levels and the rain the district does get may not be distributed where it is needed most.

While all Council water sources are currently running well above minimum consent levels, Mayor Carter says there are concerns about some water supplies. For example, Kaitaia has recorded around 10 per cent less accumulated annual rainfall than normal for this time of year. This has impacted the Awanui River, Kaitaia’s primary water supply, which is running at levels similar to those last seen this time last year following an exceptionally dry winter. He says staff are also closely monitoring water sources for Kaikohe, Kawakawa-Moerewa and Kerikeri.

Last summer, all of Northland was hit by serious drought conditions. This forced the Council to apply water restrictions to all its water supplies, including tough Level 4 restrictions allowing for essential water use only. Restrictions remained in place for some communities right up until mid-July 2020.

Mayor Carter says all residents and businesses should prepare for another dry summer and the possibility of water restrictions. “We are unlikely to see a repeat of last summer’s drought, but this did impact our whole district. As a result, groundwater and soil moisture levels were recorded well below normal as recently as September. I’m urging all residents to get into the habit of using water sensibly and to again adopt simple conservation measures.”

Conservation measures include:

  • Shorter showers

  • Flushing less often

  • Only washing clothes on a full load

  • Turning off taps while brushing teeth

  • Fixing leaking taps, toilets and other fittings.

Mayor Carter says this will become even more important as the holiday season nears. “With no international travel options available due to COVID-19 restrictions, we are expecting to see many more Kiwis visiting the Far North this summer. This will put pressure on our water supplies, and I am asking all residents and business owners to remind visitors of the need to conserve our precious resource.”

In response to the 2019/20 drought, the Council built temporary supplementary water supplies for the hardest-hit towns – Kaikohe and Kaitaia – and is now working on permanent supplementary supplies for both communities. At Kaikohe a second bore at Monument Hill could be operational by Christmas. The 120-metre-deep bore should access more sustainable groundwater supplies and tests are now underway to confirm water quantity and possible impacts on surrounding groundwater sources. Meanwhile, the Council is developing a bore site at Sweetwater near Kaitaia to permanently supplement supplies from the Awanui River. The water will be piped to the Council’s water treatment plant in Okahu Road and is due to be operational before the 2021/22 summer.

Finally, South Hokianga residents are unlikely to see water restrictions applied automatically from 1 December this year. This follows completion of a new water treatment plant and storage tanks at Omanaia late last year, and the commissioning of a bore at Smoothy Road to supplement supplies for Opononi-Omapere customers. In the past, both communities were completely reliant on water sourced from small streams vulnerable to dry conditions. The Council has now made both supplies more resilient, reducing the need for water restrictions.