The Northland Regional Council is supporting the region's district councils' appeals to residents to conserve water, warning that the "big dry" is only going to get bigger.
The toughest water restrictions have been imposed in Kaikohe and Kaitaia prohibiting all use of water except for drinking, cooking and washing. All four authorities are urging people to conserve water wherever they can.
Group manager regulatory services Colin Dall said the Northland Regional Council had warned four months ago that with the region already facing large rainfall deficits, it was "extremely unlikely" that Northland collectively would head into summer with anything close to average rainfall. Mr Dall warned then that the district councils might need to look at imposing water restrictions "earlier than normal in some dry areas, including around Kaikohe and Dargaville".
After one of the driest years on record, a number of the region's rivers were already below minimum flow levels, which wouldn't usually happen until February or March.
"Save any water you can. All water saved now will help the region get through," Mr Dall said.
Water-saving tips were at www.bewaterwise.org.nz, and everyone needed to play their part.
District councils were effectively able to impose their own water restrictions, including the banning of all outdoor water use and restricting the use of water to drinking, cooking and washing.
Kaipara District Council had done that in Dargaville on January 28. Far North District Council followed suit in Kaikohe and Kaitaia last Thursday.
Mr Dall said the 25 per cent reduction hadn't happened. In Kaitaia consumption had actually increased, leaving no choice but to impose the Level 4 restriction.
As of 2pm on Friday, Level 3 restrictions (banning hoses and sprinklers) were in place in Ōpononi/Ōmāpere, Omanaia/Rawene, Waitangi/Paihia/Ōpua and Kawakawa/Moerewa. Level 2 restrictions (no sprinklers) were in place in Kerikeri/Waipapa and at Ōkaihau.
Whangārei District Council was still at Level 1 (no formal restrictions in place), but was urging people to use water sensibly. Its water supplies were currently in better shape than its counterparts to the north and south.
The regional council had some time ago stepped-up its own monitoring to gauge flow rates in critical rivers and streams, and was also encouraging people to check on the water levels of bores.
"We've been keeping our major water resource consent holders in the loop about the water situation since spring last year to ensure they could plan for the dry conditions, but have also been re-prioritising our own work programmes to help, including supporting district councils in their efforts to reduce water use," Mr Dall said. "We're providing district councils with the latest data we can to help them manage their public water supplies."
Members of the council's hydrology team had significantly boosted the numbers of rivers they would usually gauge, and had been working long hours in hot and trying conditions for many weeks to ensure they had the most up-to-date data.
"In the past several weeks alone our staff have carried out comprehensive low-flow gauging about 120 times at numerous sites region-wide," he said. NRC was also analysing its water use with regional council staff keeping a close eye on the state of catchments across the region.