Hamilton is on the brink of unprecedented water restrictions as residents ignore council pleas to curb use and relentless dry weather continues.
Neighbouring Waipa district yesterday ramped up its water restrictions to level 3, and city council officials have confirmed they are seriously considering moving Hamilton to the same restrictions for the first time.
The upgrade would mean a blanket ban on sprinklers and new restrictions for non-residential users, including non-essential water use around the city, from council roundabouts to non-essential cleaning and car washes.
Hamilton's treated water consumption surged to almost 80 million litres on Monday - up from about 74 million the previous Monday - the city's highest of the summer, and with hot, dry forecasts until at least the middle of next week, the city council is urging restraint.
Council officials admit to disappointment sprinkler restrictions have failed to curb water use as they have in previous years, and are pointing the finger at residents for pushing the city to the brink of further bans.
Frustration in the suburbs over city water restrictions are spilling over, with residents starting to dob neighbours in to council for breaches.
And residents of the city's newest suburbs appear the worst flouters of sprinkler bans to keep their lawns lush - Huntington and Rototuna in the northeast account for almost 40 per cent of the complaints received.
Complaint figures provided by city waters manager Tim Harty show that the city's "ready-lawn areas" in the northeast are well overrepresented.
"We're getting more people out there, dropping literature and reminding people that they should be following the rules. Most people [say that they] haven't seen or weren't aware of the restriction messages," Mr Harty said.
"This is about educating, not getting out there with big sticks."
Level 3 restrictions, if adopted, would start affecting external non-recycled water use such as car washes and some city park irrigation.
Showpieces such as Waikato Stadium and Seddon Park would be protected from new restrictions, but some other irrigation may cease.
Further afield, Rural Support Trust Waikato chairman Neil Bateup said that no-one was using the drought word yet, but the potential was there and the dry weather was starting to cause concern.
"If it doesn't rain soon, that will once again put stress on people.
"Traditionally February is a dry month and often rain will come in March. Most prudent farmers will recognise they have a period they have to cover, with extra feed and stored water."
Farmers could use strategies to help ease the pressure.
"They may be starting to cull some cows that are obvious culls, to reduce their stocking rate. There is silage around, and farmers who don't have stored water can pay to truck water in for stock water."
Farmers feeling under pressure can phone the Rural Support Trust, which offers expert rural advice and support. Phone 0800 RURAL HELP (0800 787 254).
DOS AND DON'TS
LEVEL 2: Sprinklers and irrigation systems can be used from 6am till 8am and 6pm till 8pm, but only on alternate days: even-numbered addresses can water at those times on even dates only, the reverse for odd-numbered addresses. Hand-held hosing is allowed at restriction levels 2 & 3, but not level 4.
LEVEL 3: Total ban on domestic sprinklers. Only hand-held hosing permitted. Restricted outdoor use for commercial and non-residential.
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