Empty tanks give city a record thirst

WATER SHORTAGE: Farmers are struggling without rain.
WATER SHORTAGE: Farmers are struggling without rain.

March is looking like it might be one of the driest months in Manawatu ever.

"With a total of only 8.8 millimetres, this will be recognised as the driest March ever recorded in Palmerston North since records began in June 1928," weather watcher Ian Cooper said.

The shortage had the water-carrying companies extremely busy.

Cooper said last month was drier than the former driest March, in 1978.

"[March] will also be ranked the third driest overall month behind January 1988 with 5.2mm, and February 1978 which had 8.1mm."

MetService meteorologist John Law said: "You've been in a rain shadow. Low pressures from the south have petered out by the time they've got to Manawatu. The rain there had come early in the month of March - 3 and 5. So it is very dry now."

Opiki farmer Clive Akers said his family had kept weather figures since 1948 and rainfall from November to March at 187mm was the lowest recorded. He said it was about half the normal rainfall.

Palmerston Water Cartage's Debbie Ryder said it "has been crazy busy" as people wanted water delivered for houses and stock.

Ryder said she had been taking calls through the night as people ran out of water.

Tim Harris, who carts water with his truck, said it had been really busy the past few weeks.

"We're getting to people who have run completely out of water. Those with a bit in their tanks, we're asking them to hang on for a while."

Harris said for farmers, the water table was low, so stock water was at a low ebb in many cases.

"We're filling tanks so stock have water. In one case we're going every few days to a farm so dairy cows have water."

Andrew Matheson from Andrew's Haulage said filling water tanks was "steady" but he was doing some stock water.

"It's lifestylers, farmers, anyone on a tank. They're the ones that need water."

Dry areas include farm country on the lighter sandy soils from Turakina to Foxton. Farmland at Kairanga and Taihape was dry too. Horowhenua, which largely escaped last year's drought, was parched.

Manawatu Standard