Lack of rain puts pressure on pastures and councils

Councils put the squeeze on water use

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 08/02/2013
Dry pastures around Scotsman valley
PETER DRURY/Waikato Times
PARCHED: Waikato pastures have been drying out, like the hills around Scotsman valley.

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Councils across the Waikato are calling for residents to use water sparingly as the region dries out in the baking temperatures.

The Matamata-Piako District Council has taken its own advice, removing all the hanging baskets that lined the main street of Morrinsville in an attempt to curb council water consumption.

And the taps have been shut on all non-essential watering in the district.

"We put a hand-held only [restriction] in place and consumption didn't drop so we are trying to send a message loud and clear that we are not out of drought situation yet but we are getting low on water," Mayor Hugh Vercoe said.

"If we don't get rain in the next couple of weeks then yes, we will be looking at imposing severe restrictions."

The move comes after a level 3 water restriction was launched across the district in last month that put a total ban on sprinklers. Hand-held hosing is restricted to alternate days.

With a number of rivers reaching minimum levels there are alternative supplies, but Mr Vercoe said the council will have to pay for it.

"Te Aroha has got it reasonable because when the stream runs dry at the top we pump out of the Waihou River. It costs more money to take it out but there is plenty of water in the Waihou."

The Fonterra factory in Morrinsville has a bore the council can access in droughts but the town is being asked to cut back on their consumption of water.

"Don't just put sprinklers on and water your gardens. It is getting tight and we would ask you to conserve water wherever possible."

While councils struggle over water supply, for Barry Brewer, owner of Waikato Water in Cambridge, business is booming.

"The last month has been absolutely flat-out . . . probably very similar to about three years ago," he said.

Mr Brewer's water tankers cover the greater Waikato area and, with fine weather continuing, he expected business to pick up again.

"We don't like to benefit from relying on the weather because you feel sorry for people, but the weather is good for business."

Waikato Federated Farmers president James Houghton said more rain was needed.

While some farmers were feeling a bit more comfortable, others were still under pressure depending on their location.

Some properties around Te Awamutu got 25mm in the first night of rain, while Mr Houghton's area of Pukeatua got only 8mm. Seventy-five per cent of his cows' diet was coming via a feed pad, where normally it would be 35 per cent this time of year.

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Hamilton Zoo is cutting back on its water usage but zoo director Stephen Standley said the animals will not suffer due to a lack of water.

Ornamental water features and irrigation of some plants will cease but they will maintain flow to water barriers and where water is essential for cooling.

"If water is not required for containment or health reasons we will not use it," he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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