New rules imposed to avert Kaitaia water crisis

By Peter de Graaf

Emergency measures have been imposed in Kaitaia in a bid to stop the drought-hit town running dry.
The new rules should keep water flowing in household taps, but mean that irrigation, supplying water to Kaitaia's public pool, and discharging treated sewage into the sickly Awanui River are all banned.
Kaitaia's town supply comes from the Awanui River and the Okahu Stream, but with no significant rain in five months both  are running perilously low.
Water levels are now below the minimum  at which the Far North District Council is allowed to draw water for the town supply.
The only other source, the Kauri Dam, has been poisoned by a toxic algae bloom.
To avert a crisis, the Northland Regional Council - which is in charge of water use across the region - issued a water shortage direction late on Monday.
That allows the FNDC to break the terms of its resource consent and continue taking water to "provide for public health and the health of stock".
But the total amount of water the FNDC can take has been cut to 2600cu m per day. 
The FNDC will also have to provide detailed records of how much water it takes and when, and track daily use by the town's 20 biggest non-domestic water users.
Taking water for irrigation from anywhere in the Awanui River catchment is banned, as is supplying water to Kaitaia's public swimming pool.
The FNDC also has to bring in effective water conservation measures, and enforce them.
It is also banned from discharging treated wastewater into the Awanui River.
The emergency regulations last for just seven days, after which - unless rain boosts river levels - the FNDC will have to re-apply.
NRC operations manager Tony Phipps said his staff had been been discussing the need for water conservation with the FNDC for some time.
"They've been having a go at it, but it doesn't seem the community has been buying into it.

They've got to make it a bit more serious, like cutting off car washes and other non-essentials."
"The poor Awanui River is down to a warm, slow trickle compared to its normal self," he added.
The Advocate understands some residents are still watering their gardens, despite the hose ban, and two garages were late last week still running car washes.
A water crisis is also looming in Opononi and Omapere. 

- Northern Advocate

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