Summer is shaping up to be a big dry

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 13:00 19/12/2012

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The first summer water restrictions are being imposed, with warnings of more to come.

Permitted water users across the Waimea Plains will be moving to stage one (20 per cent) water restrictions from Monday and are warned more cuts could follow quickly as the dry weather continues to tighten its grip on the region.

Urban residents are being asked to ration their water use, with hand-held hosing only allowed on alternate days.

Tasman District Council's dry weather taskforce convener Dennis Bush-King said today the summer was shaping up to be similar to the 2001 drought when rainfall was the lowest in 60 years.

"We expect that water demand will increase right through to January and at the current rate the Waimea River at Appleby will be at 1000 litres per second by this weekend and will continue to drop by 100 litres per day, so stage two and stage three rationing could be implemented quite quickly. Growers should plan for this prospect," said Mr Bush-King.

The taskforce will meet again next Tuesday to discuss further cuts.

The MetService forecasts scattered rain about far western and northwest slopes on Friday, with coastal areas getting only a few spots of drizzle.

Mr Bush-King said the smattering of rain which fell across the Waimea Plains yesterday "barely touched the surface", although more fell in the Waimea River's upper catchment and took the river's flow to just under 12 cubic metres a second. The river had already dropped to 9 cumecs by this morning and was falling rapidly, he said.

He predicted that without at least 50mm of rain the region would "be moving through the staged restrictions fairly quickly".

The Moutere and Motueka zones were also reaching record lows for this time of year.

Their aquifers had been measured at 4m and 1m above sea level respectively.

Saltwater intrusion had not yet be detected in Motueka's Hau Aquifer and water had been released from the Kainui Dam to top up the Wai-Iti River.

Mr Bush-King understood some domestic bore owners were having issues extracting water while farmers and horticulturists were working to manage very low soil moisture.

He said the council appreciated the co-operation of all water users.

"If permitted water users are not irrigating the council needs to be told. Otherwise weekly water meter returns are required," he said.

Monday's stage one rationing would affect permitted water users across the Upper Catchment, Reservoir, Waimea West, Delta, Golden Hills and Lower and Upper Confined Aquifer zones of the Waimea Plains.

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Urban and rural residential residents in Richmond, Hope, Brightwater, Wakefield, Mapua, Ruby Bay, Tapawera and those on the rural water supply schemes of Dovedale, Redwood Valley and 88 Valley are being asked to conserve water.

Hand-held hosing in those areas is permitted only on odd and even calendar days corresponding to house street numbers.

Owners of domestic bores in areas subject to rationing are being asked to water gardens only every second day.

Nelson City Council has also warned of possible rural water restrictions for residents who take their water directly from streams and wells. It is also monitoring river and dam water levels in the Maitai and Roding water catchments, which serve the city's urban reticulated water supply.

It says while the supply is now adequate for people living in the city, all residents are encouraged to always use water wisely.

- The Nelson Mail

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