Too soon to turn on the sprinklers

19:17, Mar 31 2013

A second down-pouring of rain this year has farmers rubbing their hands together in anticipation, but city folk are being told not to turn the sprinklers on yet.

Heavy rain has been forecast to fall over much of the country from tomorrow, and meteorologists are predicting it could significantly help drought-stricken areas.

Rain has already begun to fall on the South Island's West Coast.

MetService said a period of heavy and thundery rain would fall on the West Coast, south of Hokitika, easing up today. It was expected to be intense, and hourly totals could reach around 25mm.

A "disturbed westerly flow" was hovering over central and southern New Zealand. And a weak ridge was holding its place over the upper North Island.

But by Wednesday, most areas in New Zealand were expected to have had a reasonable helping of rain. Showers were only expected to hang around until about Friday.

While the rain should help in replenishing soil water tables, it will not mean the automatic lifting of restrictions on city and town water supplies.

Wellington's water supply is among the most dire in the country and despite residents reaching record-low water usage figures, Greater Wellington Regional Council has warned people not to loosen up when the rain hits.

A council spokeswoman said Saturday's water use figure of 106 million litres was the lowest since records began in 1997.
The storage lake at Te Marua was full, with about 1900 million litres, and was ready to be used if needed. However, the outdoor water use ban remained in place.

"The timing of the next significant rainfall is central to when we can recommend easing the present water use restrictions. We need to maintain the level of water use below 130 million litres per day at least until the next major rainfall. Lower demand helps to preserve our water reserves longer."

River flow rates remained well below long-term March averages, she said.

"River-flow recession rates are flattening out a little better than we had anticipated last week. Without further rainfall and at current levels of water use, we now expect to meet demand without having to use storage into mid-April."

Some rain fell in Wellington yesterday, but just 3mm was recorded in Kelburn, while 4mm fell in Lower Hutt.


The Dominion Post