With water restrictions contributing to a lack of bookings, Northland businesses relying on the precious natural resource to make money are being hit with a double whammy after opening for trading under alert level 2.
House washing companies using water blasters and those running car valets across the region have been hard hit, with most going for days without any jobs booked while continuing to employ staff.
Level 3 water restrictions are in place in Whangārei while much tighter limits on water take are in place in the Far North and Kaipara districts.
The whole of the Kaipara region has level 4 restrictions that allow for household use only while Kaitaia, Kaikohe, Kawakawa-Moerewa and Rawene-Omanaia in the Far North face similar prohibitions.
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Residents connected to the Kerikeri-Waipapa, Paihia-Waitangi-Opua and Opononi-Omapere town supplies are subject to level 3 restrictions which ban the use of garden hoses and sprinklers. In Okaihau (level 2), only sprinklers are banned.
Some businesses, such as Brya Page of Blast Away Guys has obtained a month-long exemption from the Whangārei District Council for water use but a lack of jobs while still paying seven staff was worrying.
Her business is spread over Northland and Auckland where the bulk of the work was on commercial premises but with more severe restrictions in the City of Sails, Page said her income has taken a severe beating.
"We've been in this business for seven to eight years and it's never been this bad. We are offering 25 per cent discount and are putting ads on Facebook to try and drum up jobs but the situation looks pretty grim.
"Work has just dried up because of the water restrictions. There's only one person working in Northland while five are sitting doing nothing."
Page said her employees fill up tanks from non-town water sources, they wound machines back so they operated at half noise, and have increased the amount of washing detergents so they have to use less water.
There are buildings in Kaitaia, Kaikohe, and Dargaville her company has not been able to do since before Christmas because of the water restrictions.
Andrew Coe of Northland Valet in Kerikeri said business was so slow he came to work to do up old cars and was worried how he would pay the next rent.
"This business is not like the panelbeaters, or hardware, or an electrical shop which has picked up business under level 2. Pre-Covid, I had half the calendar booked out. Now
there's hardly any jobs," he said.
Tanya Cowsill of Ace Custom Water Blasting in Whangārei had one job on Tuesday and another today and said business was "pretty quiet".
She too has been granted an exemption to use more water and filled up at non-town water sources.
Owner of Red Rose Car Valet, Suri Kuslathiron, said he was doing two to three cars a day using tank water when he used to do double that number pre Covid-19.
MetService figures show Whangārei had 89mm of rain between April 18 to Tuesday this week, Kerikeri had 162.8mm, and Kaikohe 66.4mm over the same period.
Whangārei District Council water services manager Andrew Venmore said there has not been any prosecutions for water breaches as households and businesses have generally complied with the rules.
"We've spoken to a lot of businesses, particularly those that rely on water and they've managed to put in place water-saving plans so everyone has been really supportive. Dam levels are pretty static with recent rain but we desperately need more rain."
As at 3.30pm yesterday, Wilsons Dam was 58 per cent full and Whau Valley Dam 44 per cent.
About 25 per cent of the reticulated water supply in Whangārei comes from the dams, and the rest from the Hātea River, Poroti and Maunu Springs.
The city's water woes have been compounded by falling levels at water sources, as well as limits on how much could be drawn.
Rain is forecast for much of Northland on Monday and Tuesday next week, turning to showers on Wednesday.