Hard line on water use likely

DANIEL ADAMS AND AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 05:00 04/02/2013

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City bosses are expected to meet today to consider whether to move to unprecedented restrictions as Hamilton's water consumption continues to boom.

The MetService has forecast sporadic rain for today, with the chance of some showers being heavy but they're expected to clear tomorrow with fine weather for the rest of the week.

However, experts warn the region needs "sustained rain" for the area to perk back to normal moisture levels.

Council staff are also giving big commercial users - who pay for their water - a heads up that they may soon be hit by tougher restrictions.

Radio, online and even human billboard advertising is being ramped up to saturate Hamilton residents with water conservation messages.

Residents' patience with restrictions flouters is also evaporating, with complaints to the city council about neighbours now topping 60.

Enforcement staff are relying on education rather than a big stick.

Failure to comply with water restrictions or prohibitions is an offence under the city's water supply bylaw, with $500 fines on conviction.

However, staff explaining council's response said they had never resorted to prosecution as residents had always complied before that was necessary.

Sweltering temperatures and dry winds have pushed the Waipa District Council to level three water restrictions this week, with a total ban on all domestic sprinkler use - only hand-held hosing is permitted. Waipa council staff said the district continued to have high water usage and to ensure continued supply of water a total ban on sprinklers was required as the dry conditions worsened.

Waipa also has a restriction on outdoor water use for commercial and non-residential properties.

Hamilton City and Waikato District council areas are on level two water restrictions.

Sprinkler systems are permitted between 6-8am and 6-8pm on alternate days only and there is no restriction on commercial and non-residential properties.

Huntington residents Wayne and Paula Thorne said cutting the water restrictions back further would kill off their lawn which they had already re-sown several times due to water restrictions in previous years.

"You do your best to keep your lawn looking nice and it costs a lot of money you know, both to have the lawn and maintain it," Mr Thorne said.

He took pride in keeping his lawn looking lush, and he and his wife were proud of the compliments they received about their lawn, he said.

Brian Hamill, of Huntington, said he had installed a $5000 irrigation system to maintain his lawn, which was programmed to turn on and off within the allowed time slots.

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He said he believed water restrictions were necessary and that a lot of his neighbours had installed systems like his to ensure their lawns looked their best.

"I believe in playing the game and most people appear to be as far as I can see," he said.

Water use by Hamilton businesses has also come under scrutiny with a Waikato Times reader saying she was prompted to make a complaint after seeing water running across the road at The Base.

Tainui Group Holdings chief executive Mike Pohio said he was unaware of any complaints about the complex's water use but would make inquiries with senior management. "Hearing this is a surprise. We don't operate out of sync with the community's expectations of us and I'll be asking management to double-check that this is the case."

Meanwhile, waterways in some parts of the Waikato are close to or below minimum flows where restrictions kick in to protect aquatic life and to ensure enough water is available for essential uses. Waikato Regional Council resource information team member Ed Brown said "sustained rain" was needed to turn around the low flows.

- Waikato Times

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