Water shortages worsening for regions

SHORT SUPPLY: Residents in North and South Auckland are being advised to conserve water as dry conditions worsen.
SHORT SUPPLY: Residents in North and South Auckland are being advised to conserve water as dry conditions worsen.

Water supply shortages are getting desperate in Auckland with no sign of relief.

In the north, for farmers, and south, for market gardeners, the dry conditions are hitting particularly hard.

Figures from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research show Auckland received less than 10mm of rain in January.

That's more than 90 per cent below normal - a near-record low for the region.

Joe Gock and his wife Fay own 57 hectares on the Manukau Harbour near Auckland Airport. They lease just over half the land to other growers and use the rest to grow cauliflower, rhubarb, beans, capsicums, kumara and lettuce.

They have lived there since 1952 and this is the driest summer they have ever experienced.

Fay said they can usually count on rain every two or three weeks during hotter summers.

''Now I don't even know whether we're going to get any rain at all,'' she said.

Crops are failing and the vegetables that do grow are far smaller than normal. The heat means there are fewer  insects for birds to eat and plants are being turned to as a substitute food.

And not even the hundreds of litres of irrigation water seem to be making a difference to the dry soil.

''If we water them in the morning, in the afternoon it's just as dry. We don't know where the moisture goes,'' Joe said.

In the north, the continued rain has seen the Kaipara District Council impose a district-wide ban on the use of sprinklers and hoses.

Some rain was expected on Monday but the forecast is for none for at least another week.

Watercare is working with major users in the area, such as the Auckland Council parks department and schools, to identify ways to reduce consumption. 

This week Watercare's networks operations manager Anin Nama and networks engineer Rikki Schnell met Warkworth Primary School and Mahurangi College caretakers about the issue. 

Residents and businesses are asked to save supplies by avoiding garden watering, not washing vehicles and boats, fixing dripping taps - which can waste up to 70 litres daily - reusing water, using washing machines only with a full load, turning the tap off while brushing teeth, and using a bowl to scrub vegetables in the sink. 

Watercare has arranged for a tanker to top up the two reservoirs in Warkworth using supplies drawn from the Snells Beach temporary station. This is supplementing the supply by 100,000 to 150,000 litres daily. 

Metropolitan Auckland is supplied by dams in the Hunua and Waitakere ranges, the Waikato River and the Onehunga aquifer. Despite the dry summer, lake levels are near normal - around 73 per cent full compared with an average of around 79 per cent for this time of year.

However, Watercare is still encouraging people in metropolitan Auckland to use water wisely.

Auckland Now