Gisborne water situation critical

By Debbie Gregory of the Gisborne Herald

A large landslide has caused major water pipe damage near Gisborne. Photo / Gisborne District Council
A large landslide has caused major water pipe damage near Gisborne. Photo / Gisborne District Council

Gisborne could run out of water if people don't conserve water now, the District Council has warned.

A major break in the main water supply during the hottest days of summer so far - just as the district gears up for the main processing season - has put extreme pressure on the city.

A 70-metre landslip on Monday afternoon broke the main water pipe on Tarewa Road. The pipe feeds water into the Mangapoike Dam.

Gisborne District Council said the situation was critical and immediately initiated emergency water restrictions.

"The next 24 hours will determine whether voluntary water measures are working," said council engineering and works manager Peter Higgs.

"If consumption exceeds our ability to produce water, then resident and business water supply cannot be guaranteed. The situation remains critical."

Early conservation measures appeared to be working, he said.

"At 10pm on Monday night prior to the crisis the water demand was 800m3/hr, last night this was 650m3/hr. We need demand to reduce to 500m3/hr," said Mr Higgs.

The broken water pipe was uncovered yesterday so engineers and welding contractors could inspect the damage.

There were more earthworks today to stabilise the immediate work site. A camera will be inserted in the pipe, which is still under the slip, to see if there is further damage.

An assessment will then be made about whether the existing pipe network can be reused even as a temporary measure to restore water.

The repairs at the site are expected to take eight to 10 days.

The city water is still being supplied from the Waipaoa and Waingake treatment plants, but at minimal levels.

Maintenance engineers at the Waipaoa water treatment plant are attempting to produce more water. Yesterday they were able to increase production from 500 to 600m3/hr. The Waipaoa plant runs at considerable additional cost.

Mayor Meng Foon is calling for the community to be responsible to help out in this "sticky situation".

"Our staff and contractors are pulling out all stops to fix the pipe temporarily to get water to our city and processing businesses."

"Water restriction signs are going up around the city this afternoon to make people aware of the situation and I am posting on Facebook and Twitter to inform people of the water restriction."

Mr Foon has also asked council chief executive Judy Campbell to use all resources possible to fix the pipe.

The council today launched a major education programme with the key message for the community to conserve water.

For rural residents who have run out of water, carriers are allowed to cart a minimum supply of water. The council is asking people on tank supply to also conserve water.

There is no likelihood of rain to ease the situation for gardens and rural people, with maybe 5mm forecast for tomorrow.

From Saturday to near the end of next week the forecast is for sunny and dry weather with temperatures in the high 20s. Light showers are possible next Wednesday and Friday.

Mr Higgs said the city water supply was safe to drink.

A technical report on the slip can be seen on the council's website. It says the triggering of land movement was from the extreme wind on Sunday and the potentially significant loads that this may have placed on the slope.

If people have concerns, contact the council's customer services team at (06) 867-2049 or visit the council's website for more information.

Gisborne won't go thirsty

by Marino Harker-Smith (The Gisborne Herald)

GISBORNE retailers are stepping up their game to ensure no one goes thirsty in the wake of a district-wide water crisis.

Local retailers say demand for bottled water is busy at this time of year anyway, due to holiday visitors, so they usually order extra stock.

Pak'n Save Gisborne owner-operator Ewan Atherton said they had definitely had a lift in sales of bottled water and, in view of the water issue, had stepped up orders from suppliers to ensure there was plenty more arriving in the next two days.

"Gisborne won't go thirsty," he said.

Pak'n Save always carried extra quantities of water at this time of year anyway so there was plenty on hand, Mr Atherton said.

Countdown Gisborne store manager Jonathon Lingham said he had noticed an increased demand for water in Gisborne yesterday and this morning although they usually sold a lot of water at this time of year.

"We've increased our water order and will also receive additional pallets of water around lunchtime today, so should be back on track with stock," said Mr Lingham.

"We will be monitoring the situation to make sure we have plenty of water for everyone."

Ideal Four Square on Wainui Road is also prepared for an increase in demand.

Owner-operator Vick Charan said it was still early days and if people did start panic buying there might be a problem, but he had not noticed any of that kind of activity yet.

Emergency water restrictions were initiated by Gisborne District Council yesterday as a result of a major break in the main trunk pipeline from the Mangapoike Dams which supply the city with water.

Until the break is fixed, the council has declared a total ban on all non-essential outdoor water use and is urging people to conserve water as much as possible to prevent further restrictions.

Ryman's Kiri Te Kanawa Retirement Village acted swiftly on early reports about water quality issues and supplied all 150 of its residents with bottled water.

Village manager Michelle Duley said the water was ordered from Napier as soon as the village got the news about potential shortages and that water may have to be boiled.

"By getting it from out of town it means we can be independent and there is less pressure on Gisborne." she said.

Gisborne District Council has since released a statement saying that the boiling of water is not necessary.

THE Fire Service has taken steps to meet any water needs for fighting fires in the city.

"As well as the usual fire appliances we will be sending a water tanker to any structure fire calls we get," Gisborne Senior Station officer Bernie Bull said.

"Rural fire will have water tankers available too if required."

The move is designed to cover firefighting needs in the more elevated sections of the city, SSO Bull said... "where water pressure might become an issue."

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