Gisborne water crisis: Residents ready for the worst

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

Plans are in place for the worst-case scenario as Gisborne enters day three of its water crisis.

The main water pipe between the Mangapoike Dam and the Waingake Water Treatment Plant was severed by a 70-metre landslide on Monday.

The council immediately imposed water restrictions to get the city through the crisis as it faces hot summer days, dry gardens and the processing season poised to start.

Mayor Meng Foon says he is pleased Gisborne people have heeded the ``save water now'' message and reduced water use by almost a third yesterday.

"There was even a small increase in the storage in our reservoirs. I would like to send a big thank you to all those who have supported the call to use less water,'' he said.

Water use was down to 15,653m3 yesterday, from 25,000m3 on Monday.

"Our water consumption needs to come down further to 14,000m3 each day to avoid further restrictions.''

The situation is still critical but there is some good news after excavation work revealed the pipe can be temporarily fixed in six to eight days, instead of the previously estimated two-week time span.

Contractor Fulton Hogan is bringing in all available sub-contractors to work on the big welding job ahead.

However, until the pipe is fixed people need to take water conservation seriously, says acting Engineering and Works manager Dave Hadfield.

"It is a reality that people could turn their tap on and no water will come out.''

Gisborne has a standby treatment plant at Matawhero which treats water from the Waipaoa River. It is being topped up by water from the Te Arai stream.

With careful use this should ensure the city has enough water for essential use only, says GDC deputy chief executive Peter Higgs.

"If demand for water is not drastically reduced we will have to have periods of rolling water stoppages - times when you will turn on the tap and there will be no water.

"The council will not allow the city to completely run dry.''

Gisborne Hospital is ready if the taps do run dry.

Tairwahiti District Health acting chief executive Lynsey Bartlett says the hospital's reservoir holds around 1300 cubic metres - enough to supply the hospital for five days.

TDH is asking staff to reduce water use but this will not affect patient care, she says.

Aside from the laundry, the biggest water users at the hospital are the satellite dialysis unit, where up to 18 patients come for kidney dialysis each week, the neonatal unit which takes care of vulnerable new babies, and the theatre equipment sterilisation plant.

The council and about 20 stakeholders have prepared an emergency plan for rolling water stoppages.

There is now a total fire ban in Gisborne city as a precaution, and the Olympic Pool is closing two hours early to help save water.

The council is asking people to report any person or business using sprinklers or hoses to the council.

At least one business in town found out people are on the alert when it accidentally left its automatically-timed sprinkler system on and it started up around 6pm yesterday.

Pictures of it appeared on social media shortly afterwards and the business was alerted and turned it off.

People can still use bore water on their lawns and gardens. If you have a bore and want to avoid getting hassled, signs are available from the council.

As part of a continuing public education programme, signs were erected around the city yesterday advising residents to save water now.

Mr Hadfield is in contact with the city's top 20 industrial water users. All have water shortage contingency plans, which they are being asked to action immediately.

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