Hastings district mayor Lawrence Yule says people's efforts to conserve water since restrictions were put in place last week is making a difference, but he warned that care would be needed at least until Christmas when it's hoped one of the Brookvale bores will be back in action again.
A sprinkler ban was announced on Thursday last week, and the Hastings District Council held a press conference yesterday to provide an update on the water supply issues.
"There has been an improvement in reservoir levels starting to build up, but unless we get a lot of rain or the temperature drops we are going to have to be careful for the next period of time," Mr Yule said, adding he was very impressed with people's efforts to date, although he understood the issue of Hastings, Havelock North and Flaxmere's water network, and the fallout from the Havelock North campylobacter outbreak was frustrating and concerning.
Adding to that concern was the revelation on Friday, in a five-yearly report presented to the council by GNS Science, that several bores contained young water that was prone to contamination.
The results showed a significant proportion of young water in samples drawn from the Brookvale and Wilson Rd bores, and pointed to possible young water being drawn from the Frimley bore.
As such it could be difficult for a number of the council's water sources to be classified as secure under the drinking water standards, and that chlorine would not be adequate to treat the water.
Instead, the council would now have to consider implementing UV treatment across the entire urban network to ensure they complied with the standards, which could cost between $4 million and $6 million to install.
"In the short term we need to focus on the amount of water that we can deliver that's safe and that there's enough of it.
"That's the priority over the inquiry or any prosecution action," he said, referring to the Hawke's Bay Regional Council laying two charges against the Hastings District Council for unlawful taking of water.
For Jess Soutar Barron, the Hastings resident who set up an online petition against chlorinating the water that attracted more than 1600 signatures, this solution, although costly, was preferable to continued chlorination.
"I think it's so important to keep chlorine out of the water for Hawke's Bay - spending up to $6m on a treatment system that means we can do that is worth every penny.
"We celebrate spending large sums of money on things like roads and sports parks but we seem to think it's a burden to spend money on protecting the purity of our water - the cheap option is not the best option."
For Havelock North resident George Williams, however, who with the rest of his family fell ill in August during the gastro outbreak, the new information and potential costs were just another "kick in the guts" for those who had weathered the crisis.
"We want water to be a priority but I have no faith in our council what with the infrastructure issues coming up and the communication issues during the outbreak.
"To have water restrictions and then see a headline about what might need to be spent when everybody is feeling pretty bitter already - it's hard to then think about big costs being put on us."
Mr Yule said he understood this frustration, and said more effort was going to be made to get information out to people, especially with the increasing complexity of the situation.
That included an information fact sheet that has been put on the council's website, and there were plans to install a barometer that would be updated once or twice weekly to show where the Havelock North reservoir water levels were at.
He said extra crews had been brought in to deal with the likes of leaks that were exposed when the initial chlorine flush happened during the gastro outbreak, and replacing pumps that were currently being worked to full capacity.