With no significant rain since mid-November, people in a parched Northland are being asked to turn off the tap to save water.
In the hard-hit Far North, wide water restrictions will be imposed from Monday. The Far North District Council (FNDC) will ban the use of sprinklers, unattended garden hoses and automatic irrigation devices at properties connected to water supplies at Kaitaia, Kerikeri-Waipapa, Waitangi-Paihia-Opua, Russell, Kawakawa-Moerewa, Kaikohe-Ngawha and Okaihau.
A similar ban has been in place at Rawene-Omanaia and Opononi-Omapere since December 1.
The 9mm of rain that fell in Kerikeri in December was only 8 per cent of normal rainfall and the town's lowest December rainfall since weather records began in 1935. Light rain that fell yesterday on parts of the region would not ease the situation.
Demand for water across the Far North has been high, with large numbers of visitors this summer.
FNDC Infrastructure and Asset manager Jacqui Robson said the district-wide restrictions are a necessary precaution to delay the need for more stringent measures.
"The district is already very dry and there is a 45 per cent chance of below normal rainfall between now and March," Ms Robson said.
The council is asking rural households not connected to town supplies to conserve water because the bulk suppliers who top up water tanks depend on council supplies.
"During dry weather, the volume of water that is taken from these supplies for rural water tanks is significant," Ms Robson said.
Kaitaia Water Carriers is one of several Northland contractors working a busier than usual summer. Co-owner Tina Kirtland said the company was juggling deliveries on a daily basis to get water to the worst affected customers.
"We're ringing customers and saying this client has no water at all, can we put your delivery off a day?" Ms Kirtland said.
About 2500 Dargaville and Baylys Beach residents will have restrictions imposed from Tuesday, Kaipara District water services manager Brian Armstrong said.
Similar measures are not in the pipeline for Whangarei but water services manager Andrew Venmore is asking people to use water wisely.
"Whau Valley dam is at 83 per cent full and Wilson's Dam at 89 per cent, but we haven't had any rain to speak of since well before Christmas, so we all need to start thinking ahead," Mr Venmore said.
"We have sent letters to customers on our smallest water supply, Mangapai, letting them know the water level is falling in the stream that supplies their scheme, so they should start conserving water if they haven't already."
While it is unlikely restrictions will be imposed this summer, a prolonged dry spell going into autumn and another dry winter would could mean dams and groundwater supplies do not recover before next summer, Mr Venmore said.
Most Northland Regional Council rain gauges recorded 20mm to 40mm of rain in December, less than half the average amount.
Rivers across the region have reached mean annual low flow, with those in the Bay of Islands, Kaihu and Bream Bay catchments being particularly low.
"It is important that water-take consent holders ensure they are complying with their consent conditions, not wasting water and checking their water reticulation systems for leaks," a spokeswoman said.