Protecting our water supplies

Published on 26 November 2020

Ann Court (Deputy Mayor)

Summer officially starts in New Zealand next week on 1 December. Of course, we have already experienced temperatures in the low to mid-20s, prompting many to wonder whether we are in for a repeat of last summer’s record-breaking drought. The short answer is no. At this time last year, Level 3 water restrictions were already in place for Kaikohe and we were poised to apply Level 2 restrictions to our South Hokianga water supplies.

Thankfully, the situation is very different this year. Accumulated rainfall has returned to near normal levels across most of the district and we don’t anticipate applying water restrictions before Christmas. However, our environment has not yet recovered from the summer drought. Soil moisture levels remain poor in many areas and this could see river and stream levels drop rapidly if we don’t get sustained rainfall over summer.

Weather forecasters agree a La Niña weather pattern will dominate bringing more north-easterly winds and a higher chance of warm, wet conditions. We anticipate average levels of rainfall, but this may not fall evenly and could miss areas where we need it most. For that reason, we are urging all residents and businesses to prepare for another dry summer and the possibility of water restrictions. We all need to get into the habit of using water sensibly and to again adopt simple conservation measures. Shower shorter, flush less, don’t leave taps running and only wash full loads in the laundry.

We need to make sure visitors to our district also understand the water conservation message. According to our i-SITE visitor information centres, the border closure, recession and COVID-19 restrictions have had little impact on tourist numbers. Between July and November 2020, i-SITES saw 60,000 visitors. That compares to 66,000 over the same period in 2019. This summer, we expect to see an influx of holidaymakers, so please make sure friends and whanau understand the need to conserve water.

The Council is working hard to shore up water supplies. For example, we are developing a new bore at Sweetwater near Kaitaia to permanently supplement supplies from the Awanui River. 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. In the meantime, a bore we reopened at the height of last summer’s drought will be used again this summer to supply bulk water carriers if required.

Rawene-Omanaia and Opononi-Omapere residents will no longer see restrictions automatically applied in December. 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 the Opononi-Omapere supply. At Kaikohe, we aim to have a second water source at Monument Hill operating this summer. We estimate the 120-metre-deep bore could provide 45 per cent of the town’s summer water needs.

The Council has responsibility to ensure water supplies are secure, but consumers also have a part to play. Please use water sensibly and conserve it where you can.