Some folk in the Bream Bay area are having to decide whether to save their water or save their garden as the region dries up.
Pamela and Stan Foster use only rain and washing water on their Ruakaka garden but, despite having 3000 litres of tank capacity, they're down to watering every second day. One tank is empty, another "has a few days' worth in it".
The dinghy-garden on the lawn might as well be washed up on a desert island, it is so arid, says Mrs Foster. Out the back the tamarillo tree is gasping for a decent drink.
The Fosters' property is on town supply but they are committed to using only caught or used water on the garden. They also intend installing another 1000-litre tank to collect wastewater, alongside their existing two 1000-litre and two 500-litre tanks.
Sandy-soiled Bream Bay usually gets thirsty before other parts of the Whangarei district and the Fosters' garden served as the Advocate's unofficial water gauge during three-in-a-row dry spells in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Local water carrier Dennis Nash said he was busy in the dry period before two weeks of rain in the lead-up to Christmas refilled tanks. Now he's back to trucking water to customers in the Bream Bay to Waiotira area. "Most people are saying that if there's no real rain in the next week or two they'll be wanting water, so it'll probably get much busier," Mr Nash said.
So far this month, there has only been 1mm of rainfall but Whangarei District Council's dams are still 90 per cent full.
"We always advise people not to waste water but at the moment there's no reason not to use it," WDC media spokesperson Ann Midson said.