Aucklanders living off tank water are calling foul as restrictions at filling stations increase the time and cost of replenishing their supplies while city users face no cuts.
But Watercare says restrictions have only been temporary and are necessary to maintain water pressure for firefighting purposes.
Some residents living outside the city network are reportedly being forced to move out of their homes as the big dry deepens and water cartage companies are reporting waiting lists hundreds of people long.
From today, with record water use fuelled by the heat and widespread dryness, Aucklanders on the city supply are being called upon to limit their shower time to four minutes - but city officials have no plans to follow other councils in bringing in official water restrictions.
Meanwhile, emergency filling stations for residents facing shortages have been set up across the city, and some businesses, such as Mitre 10 Mega in Albany and Whangaparāoa, have offered water to parched households.
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Healthy Water Tanks owner Garry Stephenson said in his 20 years working in the trade he'd never seen shortages this bad.
"People are getting really desperate. Some people have not been able to flush their toilet for a month, some are even being forced to move out of their homes."
One family even sent the company a photo of their 1-week-old baby, accompanied by a birth certificate in a bid to prove their desperation.
But Stephenson said their waiting list was well over 200 people long, and it would be early March until they could take on any more orders.
"It has become a health, human rights issue."
Stephenson ran one tanker, but said other companies with as many as six were also stretched.
The Herald has not been able make contact with half a dozen companies called Monday morning due to the high demand.
Stephenson said restrictions put in place by Watercare at filling stations meant the time it took the 10-12,000-litre tanker trucks to fill up had increased, passing the burden on to those running dry.
"Each time a tank fills up it lowers the reservoir level and needs to be filled again. But the infrastructure is not in place to do it fast enough and to deal with the supply issues we have currently.
"We used to be able to fill up in about seven minutes - now it is closer to 15 minutes. When you have eight tankers waiting in line it really adds up. We are doing about a third less trips now than we could before."
Along with the dry spell, Stephenson said it was the housing boom in the wider area, unaccompanied by appropriate infrastructure, that was the cause of the severe shortages.
"There are subdivisions being built all over the place - Dairy Flat, Silverdale - and the infrastructure is not keeping up."
A Watercare spokeswoman said all 11 filling stations were currently open. Two filling stations - Whangapāraoa and Silverdale - have reduced flow rates (up to a third) that would be returned to normal Wednesday.
"We temporarily shut filling stations when reservoir levels fall to 50 per cent - it's imperative that we maintain sufficient water pressure in our network for firefighting purposes," she said.
Filling stations were closed for just one day in January, due to a power outage and a broken pipe, she said.
"Water tanker operators normally have waiting lists at this time of year, regardless of the availability of tanker filling stations."
Currently, Auckland's total water storage is 72 per cent, compared with a historical average of about 83 per cent for this time of year.
On February 4, Aucklanders used a record-breaking 561 million litres of water - that was in stark contrast to the average daily usage of 440 million litres in 2019.
While not introducing restrictions, Watercare today launched a campaign urging residents on city supply to take four-minute showers.
"If everyone in Auckland cut their showers from eight minutes to four minutes, the region would reduce its water use by 80 million litres a day," head of water value Roseline Klein said.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said he'd be doing his bit by filling a bucket to wash his car, rather than using the hose.
Mark Gosling, who lives with his wife and daughter in Waiatarua in the Waitākere Ranges, said they were lucky to have filled up their tank two weeks ago but had friends who'd had to move out of their home until they could fill up.
Responding to comments from Auckland Council on Friday rural residents needed to be better prepared, Gosling said there was only so much they could do.
"We live with restrictions all year - we know about planing ahead. With climate change these shortages are only going to increase.
"It is unfair the mayor saying things like he'll wash his car with a bucket of water when people have to move out of their homes. It should be a level playing field, and let tankers fill up as normal."
Coatesville resident Sue Murphy, who is in her 70s, previously told the Herald she didn't shower for five days and a tenant at her property had to move to a motel because they'd run out of water.
Murphy had been waiting for four weeks for her water tank to be refilled and was worried that her 10 sheep and two donkeys would soon run out of drinking water.
Water restrictions were in force in many places around the country, including Whangārei, Coromandel, Hamilton, Napier, Hastings, New Plymouth, Masterton, Wellington, Porirua and the Hutt Valley.
The situation had become especially severe in the Far North, where angry Kaikohe residents have accused their council of not doing enough to avert a water crisis that could mean the town may soon run dry.
Watercare's head of water value Roseline Klein said Auckland was fortunate to have a range of water sources in Auckland – dams, rivers and aquifers.
"At the moment, we're drawing more water from the Waikato River and Onehunga aquifer to reduce demand on our southern dams," she said.
"This means we're fairly comfortable in terms of the availability of water and there are no water restrictions. However, we do need people to use water wisely, especially when it's warm."