Sustained dry weather over Christmas and the New Year had seen flows in the Awanui River, Kaitaia's main water supply, fall to worrying levels, general manager infrastructure and asset management Andy Finch said last week, forcing the Far North District Council to impose Level 3 water restrictions on the town.

That restriction took effect immediately, on Thursday last week, prohibiting the use by residents and businesses connected to the scheme from using garden hoses, including hand-held, sprinklers or any other irrigation devices. Waterblasting and filling swimming pools from the mains supply are also banned.

Mr Finch said the restriction was required to protect the ecology of the drought-sensitive Awanui River, and to help avoid the need for even tighter restrictions in the future.

"Water flow in the Awanui River has dropped steadily over the last few weeks. Apart from the possibility of some rain in March, little meaningful rain is forecast by the MetService until May, or possibly later in the year. This is a real concern," Mr Finch said.

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The council was exploring options to supplement the town's water supply from other sources, but in the meantime was asking everyone to conserve water as much as possible.

Simple measures to reduce water consumption included, only using washing machines with a full load, turning off taps while brushing teeth, putting the plug in the sink when washing vegetables and not leaving the tap running, and mulching gardens with grass clippings or compost to reduce the loss of water by evaporation.

Mr Finch said the council was monitoring all Far North water sources daily, and was working with contractors to minimise wastage and protect vulnerable water sources.

Residents were asked to phone the council on 0800 920-029 to report leaks or breaches of the restrictions, and invited to go to www.bewaterwise.org.nz for tips on how to save water and information about current water restrictions across the Far North.

The council may grant exemptions to water restrictions. but applicants will have to demonstrate significant hardship and have no practical alternative water source. Go to www.fndc.govt.nz/savewater for more details and/or to apply for an exemption.