With the start of summer officially more than a month away, the Far North District Council announced on Friday that it was banning the use of sprinklers, irrigation devices and unattended hoses in Kaikohe.
The ban applied to all residences and businesses connected to the council's reticulated water supply as of Friday.
Restrictions were not imposed in Kaikohe last summer until January 30, while South Hokianga residents were asked to start conserving water on December 27. Council sources suggested last week that it would not be long before restrictions were imposed there too.
The Awanui River, which supplies Kaitaia, is still running quite strongly, but without significant rain over coming weeks it could drop quickly.
The council's general manager infrastructure and asset management, Andy Finch, said the Level 2 restrictions in Kaikohe had been forced by a warmer than average winter, compounded by very warm, dry conditions in June and July. Both the Northland Regional Council and Niwa had confirmed lower than normal levels of rainfall in recent months, the NRC warning some weeks ago that the Mid and Far North could be in for a dry summer.
Raw water sources for Kaikohe had proved particularly vulnerable, and, after such a dry winter, both river and groundwater levels were worryingly low.
"For the Wairoro Stream and the Monument Hill bore to meet community needs over the coming summer, restrictions on water use must be put in place now," Mr Finch said, adding that the council was asking bulk water carriers and major water users in the Kaikohe area to find ways that they could help reduce consumption.
He also urged residents to conserve water to help prevent the need for even tighter water restrictions later.
Go to the Be Waterwise (Whakanuia to whakaaro ki te wai) website (bewaterwise.org.nz/) for information about Northland's water restrictions and tips on how to save water, and phone 0800 920-029 to report water leaks or breaches of restrictions.
Mr Finch said the council could grant exemptions to water restrictions in exceptional circumstances, but applicants would have to demonstrate significant hardship and have no practical alternative water source. Go to www.fndc.govt.nz/savewater for details and to apply for an exemption.