Wellington businesses helping save water

16:00, Mar 25 2013
Greenkeeper Brett Burgess can’t wait for autumn rains to arrive.
IN YOUR EYES: Greenkeeper Brett Burgess can’t wait for autumn rains to arrive.

Wellington businesses have mostly joined residents' efforts to reduce water use.

Car yards and rental car companies had cut the amount they washed cars to a minimum, and water-blasting firms and painters had deferred jobs that could wait until winter, said Alex van Paassen, a spokesman for Capacity Infrastructure, which manages water for the Wellington, Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt city councils.

Operators who had breached the outdoor water use ban had generally done so unwittingly, and were quick to comply once they had been warned or notified by patrols.

Managing the needs of different businesses had to be done on case by case, without threatening jobs or commercial viability.

"Throughout this, we haven't wanted to put people out of work," he said. "It's become a balancing act.

"It starts to get tricky when you're affecting people's revenue and income."


Scientists predict dry summers will become the norm for Wellington, and Mr van Paassen said the water shortage had been a "learning curve" as the capital prepared for more parched summers.

"It does give us the opportunity to think about how we want to approach this in the future," he said.

A third storage lake at Kaitoke, north of Te Marua's two present storage lakes, has been mooted, and a feasibility study had been done.

Greater Wellington Regional Council is in negotiations to buy the Kaitoke site from AgResearch to provide options as water demands increase.

Mr van Paassen said the shortage had also ramped up awareness about water conservation and restrictions and highlighted water's value as a limited resource.

It was hoped momentum would build behind the positive response to water conservation.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the council had been impressed by water-reliant businesses, from restaurants to window cleaners, being proactive in asking what they were permitted to do under water restrictions.

The issue had become a talking point.

Wellingtonians used 130 million litres of water on Sunday, right on the daily maximum target recommended by the regional council to maintain emergency supplies through to the next significant rain, forecast for April.

But river flows are still well below long-term March averages.


The big dry has been especially challenging for Boulcott's Farm Heritage Golf Club, in Lower Hutt, which is halfway through a multimillion-dollar redevelopment.

The massive project to redesign 24 holes began about two years ago and general manager John Freer said one of the major issues had been how to keep river gravel dust settled during construction.

Engineers have tackled the problem by using a dust suppressant rather than water, while parts of the project have been pushed ahead of schedule, such as the laying of topsoil. New construction techniques featuring water-sustainable variations of turf, topsoil and gravel would also make the club more water efficient.

Prompted by a discussion on long-term water conservation with Department of Conservation director-general Al Morrison three years ago, Mr Freer started a plan to cut the club's water use by 30 per cent, a target he said had been achieved.

The club's 1200 members had largely stopped washing golf clubs and shoes. Although it has its own bores, drawn from the Hutt aquifer, he said the club was responding to the drought by alternating irrigation days, and had reduced water use by half.


Wellington police district staff have been instructed not to pressure-wash their 260 vehicles, unless there is a safety or hygiene problem.

The water-conservation regime will stay in place until the outdoor water ban is lifted.

"I think police are quite happy not to have to wash their cars," spokesman Nick Bohm said.

Tranz Metro is also taking the water shortage seriously as commuters may have noticed. The extra grime on trains is a result of a network cutback on washing.

Wellington Combined, with the capital's biggest taxi fleet of more than 500 cabs, is also on the waterwise bandwagon. Chief executive Lynne Hayman said guidelines had been issued to drivers to use a combination of wet and dry cloths to avoid hosing down cars.

"All our drivers are keen to do their bit to conserve water."


BP'S eight company-owned car washes around Wellington all use recycled water, according to spokesman Jonty Mills.

The company had not been required to restrict the opening hours for the car washes, which are exempted from the outdoor water ban, but BP had offered to do so anyway, he said.

There was a "general awareness" within the company that staff had to pitch in to address the water shortage.

Z Energy corporate affairs manager Jonathan Hill said the company was rolling out water replacement units into all of its car washes around the country. The recycling units save about 60 per cent of water.

Two of Z's six Wellington car washes had been refitted with the units, at Broadway, next to Wellington Airport, and in Lower Hutt High St.

Mobil is voluntarily shutting its seven non-recyclable Wellington car washes on alternate days.

Caltex has recommended to its five car-wash sites in the region that they conserve water where possible.

The Dominion Post