River below 2013 drought level

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 12/03/2014

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Cucumbers, tomatoes and lawns must have their water rations cut further as New Plymouth district's main water supply sinks lower than at any time during last year's drought.

Water restrictions went in place last month with unattended hoses banned and gardeners reduced to using handheld hoses on alternate days. Normal commercial use is unchanged.

After an initial dip water usage is again creeping up and on Taranaki Anniversary day the total usage cross the district reached 38.897 million litres, an eight per cent increase on Sunday's 35.939m litres.

The surge in use comes as the Waiwhakaiho River, the district's main water supply, is at record lows. Its current flow of 1700 litres per second slashes the amount of water available for the New Plymouth water supply by 8.6m litres per day.

District council water boss Mark Hall said this put added pressure on people to cut water use down.

"If people can reduce their usage there is enough for our normal consumption.

"The reason we are having trouble is we have abnormal demand and most of that is for watering gardens and lawns," he said.

During last year's drought the Waiwhakaiho's lowest flow was 1725l/s. Since 1980 such low March flows have only occurred in 2006 and 2003.

Mr Hall said water restrictions would not affect the amount of water available for treatment but low flows meant there was less available to treat and put into reticulation.

During the last two weeks the Waiwhakaiho River has dropped by about 100l/s each week.

"If we get to 1600l/s in the river our maximum water-take would be 42.4 million litres per day - which was the average water use in the district in the week starting February 17," he said.

Okato's water supply, the Mangatete Stream, is also periodically dropping below its minimum flow for the council's full water-take, which could see a total hose ban put in place today.

Mr Hall said rain forecast for this weekend would cause rivers to rise temporarily and significantly reduce demand.

No one has been prosecuted for breaching water restrictions since they were put in place last month but Mr Hall said a number of warning letters had been sent out.

"A number of people genuinely aren't aware of the restrictions and once we tell them they generally reduce their water usage significantly," he said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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