Dry weather prompts new water restrictions
Published on 29 January 2021
Ongoing high temperatures coupled with very little rain forecast over coming weeks have prompted the Council to apply new or increased water restrictions to four Far North communities.
From Tuesday 2 February, Level 3 water restrictions will be applied to Kawakawa and Kaikohe banning the use of garden hoses, sprinklers or any irrigation devices. Water blasting for non-commercial water users, and filling swimming pools from the mains supply will also be banned. Commercial and school pool operators can apply for an exemption.
Level 2 water restrictions banning automatic sprinklers or irrigation devices will also be applied to households and businesses connected to the Council’s Kerikeri and Paihia-Opua-Waitangi water supplies from Tuesday 2. Level 3 water restrictions currently in place for Kaitaia will not change.
General Manager – Infrastructure and Asset Management, Andy Finch, says the Council has delayed applying new water restrictions until after the upcoming Northland Anniversary long weekend. “We know businesses in the affected communities will be keen to make the most of long weekend trade as they try to recoup COVID-19 economic downturn losses. We hope this delay will give them an opportunity to make operational changes with as little disruption as possible.”
However, he warns this is not a signal to use water without restraint over the long weekend. “I hope businesses and residents will do all they can to conserve water and encourage visitors to do the same. Reducing consumption now could help avoid the need for more restrictions before the Waitangi Day long weekend.”
Mr Finch says the jump straight to Level 3 for Kaikohe will be disappointing for residents and businesses, but a sharp decrease in flows in the Wairoro Stream, the town’s primary water source, left the Council with little choice.
“The Wairoro Stream responded well to rainfall after Christmas and we hoped healthy flows would continue. However, the combination of low soil moisture levels and high temperatures has seen water levels in the stream drop sharply in under a week. Flows are now well below the 13 litre per second limit set by Northland Regional Council, leaving us no choice but to go straight to Level 3 restrictions.”
The Council has started drilling a second bore at Tokareireia (Monument Hill) to supplement its other Kaikohe water sources and hopes to commission this before March.
The Paihia-Opua-Waitangi water source has fared better. Flows in the Waitangi River remain healthy, but water consumption has reduced little since a New Year’s Eve plea for restraint. “Our water treatment plant is still working at least 22 hours a day, leaving little time to undertake running maintenance. With two long weekends approaching, we know demand will increase. Level 2 restrictions are a very clear signal to residents and businesses that we all need to reduce demand now.”
He says the situation for Kerikeri is similar. Flows in Puketotara Stream, the town’s secondary supply, have not yet breached the NRC consent limit. However, without significant rain soon, that limit will be reached by mid-February leaving the district’s largest town reliant on a single water source, the Waingaro Reservoir. “We want to avoid that. So again, Level 2 restrictions are a clear signal to Kerikeri that we are approaching a crunch point with our water supplies. We are asking everyone to start conserving water now to avoid tighter restrictions in the future.”
Mr Finch adds that very dry ground conditions across the district have also led to a spike in water leaks caused by pipes moving and breaking. “Please report all water leaks immediately to the Council by calling 0800 920 029. We will assess and repair these as soon as we can.”