Dry days cut water supplies

By Michael Dickison

With little rain this month and none forecast, storage levels are being closely monitored.

The Upper Mangatawhiri Dam in the Hunua Ranges. Photo / Greg Bowker
The Upper Mangatawhiri Dam in the Hunua Ranges. Photo / Greg Bowker

Auckland's water storage levels are dropping steadily as the year's dry spell continues, with sunny weather forecast to last through the week.

Dams in the Hunua Ranges have had 7 per cent of the average monthly rainfall for January. In the Waitakere Ranges, the Upper Nihotupu Dam is now less than half full. The dams supply 80 per cent of Auckland's water.

However, Watercare said last night that dam levels were about average and it was not looking at water restrictions. Water is also being drawn from the Waikato river.

MetService predicts dry days to continue this week. This is good news for people enjoying Auckland Anniversary Weekend and the last few days of the school holidays, but the dryness has brought a fire ban in Auckland, a warning of water restrictions in Northland, and scrub fires around the country.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research has said soil moisture levels are "incredibly dry" for this time of the year, although the Ministry for Primary Industries has yet to declare a drought.

Northern fire communications shift manager Jaron Phillips said people had lit many fires across Auckland during the weekend despite a complete fire ban declared by Auckland Council.

All open-air fires, including rubbish fires, bonfires, backyard braziers, fireworks and cooking fires, are banned.

There were 17 as a result of backyard rubbish burns; one from a cooking fire; one from a brazier fire; two from bonfires lit on the foreshore; and five started by fireworks.

In Wiri, a hangi set a fence on fire. Elsewhere, a brazier was knocked over and ignited vegetation.

"It's apparent that lots of people aren't aware of the fire ban so they are continuing having backyard fires, setting off fireworks, having hangi and umu and using braziers," Mr Phillips said.

Gas barbecues could be used, but not those that used solid fuel such as charcoal or those with an open flame.

Council spokeswoman Sharne Parsons said it was likely many of the people breaching the ban were not aware of it.

Meanwhile, principal rural fire officer Bryan Cartelle said a blaze that destroyed more than 100ha of bush on Great Barrier Island had been contained.

Firefighters were continuing to dampen hotspots.

Aucklanders used 2.84 billion litres of water in the past week, down from 2.95 billion litres the week before.

Water levels at Watercare's dams

Yesterday: 81.7 per cent
Previous Friday: 83.9 per cent
Average for this time of year: 85 per cent

Rainfall at dams

Waitakere Ranges
Last 7 days: 15mm
Month to date: 24mm
Historical monthly average: 100mm

Hunua Ranges
Last 7 days: 6mm
Month to date: 7mm
Historical monthly average: 105mm

Source: Watercare.

- NZ Herald

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