Water restrictions are likely to be introduced in Whangārei in the coming weeks as the local council prepares for the possibility it may have to supply water to other districts in need.
Whangārei is currently the only district in Northland without water restrictions. The Far North District Council on Wednesday imposed Level 4 water restrictions in Kaikohe - the highest that can be applied - meaning all outdoor water use is banned. The same restrictions were applied in Kaitaia on Thursday.
Level 4 restrictions already apply in Dargaville and Baylys Beach, while Level 3 restrictions are in place in Paihia-Waitangi-Opua, Opononi-Omapere and Kawakawa-Moerewa.
Whangārei District Council (WDC) is preparing for the possibility that it may have to supply some water to other districts and is taking stronger measures to preserve dam water as well as reducing its own water use in parks and reserves.
It is also is likely to introduce Level 2 water restrictions - which means no sprinkler systems - across the district in coming weeks.
"In terms of when, It really depends on how things progress and whatever demands come in and what the forecast is as well. That's the interesting thing about this particular drought is you never quite know when the next rain is coming and how heavy it's going to be and that's the decider," WDC Water Services manager Andrew Venmore said.
WDC Parks and Recreation manager Sue Hodge said her department and its contractors moved to their own "level 2" water restrictions this week.
Water conservation measures include reducing the watering schedule from 20-minute intervals four times a week, to three times a fortnight.
"We will continue to do some watering of sports fields to retain the grass surfaces so they do not need to be closed in the autumn for renovation – that would delay use by sports clubs."
Annual bedding displays - like the flower displays at roundabouts and Laurie Hall Park - will be watered less and council will stop watering hanging baskets as these get replaced each season.
"We will continue deep watering our new amenity trees. If levels in our storage fall to lower levels we will to cease watering."
Hodge said council was looking at whether it can use the clean water produced by the Wastewater Treatment Plant. This would require a resource consent from the Northland Regional Council.
"We have investigated the health and cultural aspects, and we understand that it will be ok to use this water for short-term emergency works, so long as it is not used near waterways, not applied to food crops and that the public are excluded from areas being watered with it.
"Public consultation would be required if this was to become anything other than an emergency measure."
Venmore said the water levels for the Whau Valley Dam were at 70 per cent and Wilsons Dam was at 73 per cent. These levels wouldn't be concerning if rain was expected.
"The problem is that no rain is predicted for many weeks ahead, and the water levels in our dams and other resources will keep falling in the meantime," he said.
Top 6 smart water conservation tips
• Wait until you have a full load before you turn on the dishwasher or washing machine.
• Turn the water off while you are brushing your teeth.
• Keep a jug of drinking water in the fridge and keep it topped up. If you run the tap long enough for water to cool down it can waste 10 litres a minute.
• Apply the 'step test' to the lawn – if grass springs back after you walk on it, it doesn't need watering.
• If your toilet has a dual-flush button, use the half flush and think twice about whether you really need to flush.
• Let the car go dusty.