Bouts of timely rainfall were making this summer "kinder" to many Northlanders than the last one, but with much of summer and autumn still to come, authorities say it would still sensible to save water where possible.
Colin Dall, the Northland Regional Council's group manager regulatory services, said, viewed as a whole, the weather around the region to date had been what could loosely be called a 'typical' Northland summer in terms of overall rainfall.
"Coming into this summer, spring was drier than usual, as was the first official month of summer, December, with western areas and Kaitaia receiving around 30 per cent of typical rainfall, and the east coast receiving around 10 per cent," he said.
Fortunately, as predicted by forecasters, January had seen relatively short, but timely, bouts of rain that meant some places were now close to, or above, typical January rainfall. That rain had also provided a welcome boost for those who relied on tanks.
As of 9am on Monday, with roughly a third of January was still to come, regional council figures showed the Hokianga had received 59mm of rain, compared to 45mm that was typical for January. At the other end of the scale, Kaitaia had received 41mm, compared to the 70mm it typically received over the month, Whangārei 36mm (80mm), and Dargaville 35mm (80mm).
Dall said the most recent MetService forecast produced for the regional council indicated that overall it was it likely to be drier than normal over the four weeks to the end of the first week of February, although there was still the possibility of this week "running a touch wetter' than forecast.
Given the region was now roughly half-way through summer, it was simple common sense for everyone to already be conserving water wherever possible (whether on town supply, tank or groundwater), and ensure it was not wasted unnecessarily, he added.
That included people keeping a vigilant eye out for, and repairing, any leaks in their water supply systems.
The regional council's water and waste monitoring manager, Alison McHugh, said Northlanders on tank supplies needed to be especially mindful of conserving water.
"Aside from the obvious financial cost of buying in the water people need, tank refills also have potential environmental costs, put pressure on supplies in other areas, reduce water in streams and rivers, and potentially affect aquatic habitats," she said.
Those who sourced their water from groundwater supplies had a similar role to play, as "not all aquifers are created equal."
Regionally aquifer levels were lower than usual, again largely the legacy of last year's prolonged drought, and were being monitored closely by the council.
"Typically aquifer levels decline over summer, and reach their lowest levels in autumn before recharging over the wetter months," McHugh said, adding that while some aquifers were able to cope over the dry months, others were more susceptible to saline (seawater) intrusion, particularly in coastal areas.
"Be mindful of your pumping rates when taking groundwater, especially if you're living in a coastal area, and reduce your pump flows to help avoid adverse effects if you haven't already done so, regardless of whether you have a consent or not," she said.
"There are also hundreds of other Northland users taking relatively small amounts of water who don't need resource consent to take that water, but still need to respect the resource."
Dall said of the several hundred people or organisations with consents, district councils taking water for public water supply and farmers irrigating pasture were among the biggest users, requiring hundreds of thousands of litres daily. While some regional council resource consent holders had already had to cease their takes due to rivers reaching low flows, that was not uncommon over summer.
"The regional council has also recently started engaging with other water users in areas where river and groundwater flows are likely to reach low flow limits in the near future. Again this is common over summer," he said.
If necessary, the council could impose formal water rationing and/or water shortage directions as tools for managing water takes in dry catchments, but it had not had to resort to that so far this summer.
He also noted that the region's district councils had already proactively introduced their own water use restrictions in susceptible areas over recent weeks, including both the Kaipara and Far North.
Regional river and rainfall data are available at www.nrc.govt.nz/riversandrain, while details of water restrictions are at www.bewaterwise.org.nz