Auckland businesses are welcoming the relaxing of water restrictions but the mayor warns the city is not out of the woods yet with dam levels continuing to decline amid a dry spring.
From Monday restrictions that came into force in May banning the outdoor use of water will be eased for commercial users.
Businesses will be allowed to use hoses with a trigger nozzle outdoors, commercial car washes will resume and sports fields, plants and paddocks can be watered with irrigation systems fitted with soil moisture or rain sensors.
Supercity Property Services director Murray Robertson said it was "welcome news".
Property cleaning businesses like his have had to use recycled water, meaning carting tanks around the city for jobs, adding time and costs to businesses already suffering greatly due to Covid-19.
"It's been a double whammy," Robertson said.
"Many businesses have gone into hibernation, and I'm not sure how many will be coming back out. But it's a welcome relief for us, we're excited to get back into it."
Under restrictions and near average winter rainfall Auckland's storage dams recovered from dangerously low levels, but are still a quarter below normal at 67 per cent.
September and October have seen less than half the historical amount, and storage is starting to dip again.
What's more, the dams in the Hunua Ranges, which supply 60 per cent of Auckland's water, are still at low levels, compared to the smaller dams in the Waitākere Ranges.
Mayor Phil Goff told the Herald restrictions were eased on these businesses due to the "intense financial pressure" they were facing.
They were also relatively low users of water.
The Exterior Cleaning Industry Association previously stating they used just 0.07 per cent of the city's daily usage, or less than half a per cent of the 53 million litres a day the city loses due to leakages in the network.
The move will benefit house cleaning businesses, builders, maintenance contractors and plant nurseries.
However, the ban on washing cars, houses and watering the garden by residents, which came into effect on May 16, will remain for now and be reviewed in December. Residents use 70 per cent of the city's water.
The decision, made by councillors in September, was based on the need to maintain 5 per cent water savings over summer, new water sources being brought on stream, weather forecasts, the state of the city's dams and the potential consequences if forecast rain does not eventuate.
MetService and Niwa are forecasting an average to dry spring rather than an earlier prediction of a drier spring, and wetter weather in January and February with possible cyclones thanks to a potential La Nina, but have advised there is little reliability with the long-range forecasts.
Auckland households and businesses have responded positively to savings requests, using on average 40 million litres a day less than usual.
Watercare has also upgraded its capacity to treat a further 25MLD from the Waikato River, and by December will have boosted capacity by a further 15MLD.
It was also on track to add another 50MLD from the Waikato River by July next year.
Despite this, by December Aucklanders would have been under restrictions for seven months, with the chances of them continuing into next year increasingly likely.
"It is not acceptable, but it is because of the drought conditions, which are worse than we have ever experienced," Goff said.
"We have been saving really well, and a lot of work is going into increasing capacity, but the truth is we've had another really dry September and October."
While work to increase capacity should have started earlier, "nobody predicted two years of drought", Goff said.
"In any normal year we would have a surplus of water.
"It is not population growth that has caused this, it is exceptional weather."
Auckland water restrictions from October 12
• Commercial water users will be able to use a hand-held hose fitted with a trigger nozzle; use a regular hose for health, safety, emergency and biosecurity reasons; operate a car wash service; water sports fields, plants and paddocks using irrigation systems fitted with soil moisture sensors or rain sensors.
• Residential users are still prohibited from using a hose outdoors, but can water the garden with a watering can or clean their car using a bucket, for example. Residents are also urged to continue reduce indoor water use by at least 20 litres a day, every day.
• Commercial users are asked to continue to reduce indoor water use by at least 10 per cent, compared with the same time last year.