Far North firefighters are preparing for the possibility they won't be able to use town supply water for fighting blazes this summer.
River levels in the district have fallen to near-critical levels, prompting the Northland Regional Council to order the Far North District Council to impose the tightest possible water restrictions in Kaitaia unless the town's big water users cut consumption by 25 per cent.
Maximum water restrictions, level 4, will be imposed in Kaikohe any day and are already in force in Dargaville and Baylys Beach in the Kaipara.
• The big dry: Drought in Northland and extreme fire danger in Dunedin
• Fatigued firefighters on high alert in tinder-dry Northland
• 'Widespread extreme dryness': Why drought has come to NZ
• Drying out: Parts of North Island could soon be in drought
Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) Muriwhenua area commander Wipari Henwood said he was working with the Far North District Council and its water network contractor Broadspectrum to plan for a worsening water shortage.
It was fortunate FENZ had a good number of water tankers at its disposal, Henwood said.
If firefighters were no longer able to use town supplies, more fire appliances could be sent to each blaze and tankers could be moved around the district where they were most needed.
''At the end of the day we don't want to be responsible for using a large proportion of the water that's left,'' Henwood said.
Current water restrictions meant Far North firefighters were unable to wash their hoses, which might have to be taken to Whangārei for washing and testing.
''But that's the least of our worries. Our main concern is how we can assist the community.''
The Northland District Health Board is also planning for looming water shortages.
Eight patients in Kaitaia and the Mid North use home-based dialysis, which requires large volumes of water.
Chief operating officer Paul Welford said fleet cars were no longer being washed at Kaitaia and Bay of Islands hospitals and if further savings were required hospital staff would switch to alcohol-based hand sanitiser instead of washing hands with water.
Northland Civil Defence is also preparing for the worst.
Spokesman Murray Soljak said the group was ''monitoring the situation and assisting with co-ordination''.