Dry spell forces watch on rivers

In contrast to a year ago when constant heavy rain triggered the worst flood in a generation, local authorities are now keeping a weather eye on the region as lack of rain and dropping river levels spell water restrictions for many.

Nelson city is warning that lowered river levels mean likely water restrictions for Nelson residents who take their water directly from streams and wells.

For a second week Tasman District Council's Dry Weather Taskforce convener Dennis Bush-King has delayed the introduction of water rationing in the Waimea Plains.

Nelson City Council's monitoring and research manager Martin Workman said while water restrictions are not needed at the moment, people were encouraged to save water as much as possible to limit the impact of potential water restrictions during summer.

"Council will continue monitoring the receding river flows until there is significant rain. Should water restrictions become necessary, affected households will be notified in writing," Mr Workman said.

He said residents who drew domestic water from streams or wells were encouraged to organise an alternative source (for example, storage tanks), should restrictions become necessary.

Council staff are also monitoring river and dam water levels in the Maitai and Roding water catchments, which serve the city's urban water supply.

While supply is adequate for people living in the city, all residents are encouraged to always use water wisely," Mr Workman said.

Mr Bush-King said earlier this week the situation remained of concern but the Waimea River was running at 3.1 cumecs which was above the rationing trigger.

He said groundwater levels generally were very low for this time of the year.

"The worry is that without rain, and with the soil moisture levels being low, irrigation and urban water use increasing, we may have to move through the rationing steps very quickly as river and aquifer levels start to drop more rapidly, which is not a good Christmas present for the agricultural sector or residents."

Mr Bush-King said the district council would continue monitoring the situation and the Task Force was due to meet again next week.

The MetService long range forecast shows the region could be in for light rain from Monday night through Tuesday.

The Nelson Mail