It's only November, but Tauranga City Council is already sending out a clear message to residents to conserve water.

"It's up to communities to respond positively to the way they use water from our streams," said Peter Bahrs from Water Services.

"We monitor a seven-day rolling average of water demands and we monitor where that is in relation to the treatment plant capability. When we get to a certain point, which in our book is 50,000 cubic metres in a day, when we're over that line that's when it starts becoming critical for us from a treatment point of view. When we've reached that line for five days or more and there's no prospect of rain, that's when we implement water restrictions,"

The recent spell of hot, dry weather and no rain predicted for the rest of the month, meant that Tauranga reached that threshold and water restrictions became inevitable. But Bahrs says a solution to water shortages is coming.

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"We've got two treatment plants which service roughly 140,000 people. We've recognised that with a high growing city we're running low on capacity so we've got a third treatment scheme in process. But currently we're having to manage with the existing capacity."

Last summer, restrictions weren't announced until February. But this summer is much earlier and the main culprit is the household sprinkler.

"Rather than putting your sprinkler on, water conservatively," Bahrs said. "Handheld hoses is what we would recommend rather than just leaving a sprinkler going unattended. That's the biggest thing that people could do."

Stephen Burton, City Waters Manager, says plans for a third water treatment plant have been in the works for over a decade.

"Tauranga's growth has been evident since the 90s and around about 97-98, a lot of work was done on forward planning for the third water source for the city," he said.

"About 10 years ago we secured a consent together with the Western Bay District Council, our neighbours, to take water from the Waiāri Stream which is just beyond Te Puke."

The new plant will help supply water to the Mount and Pāpāmoa suburbs as well as the upcoming township of Te Tumu.

"The latest update is that virtually all the packages of work associated with the scheme have been tendered and bar one they've all been let to contractors to build and commission by 2021, 2022."

With water relief at least two years away, what advice does Bahrs have for people who see unattended sprinklers?

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"I guess it's really just a community outreach to say 'if you're prepared to water conservatively it would assist everybody'. So enabling conversation would be what we recommend."

If you must water the garden, the advice is to do so early in the morning or in the evening, when the water can soak into the ground and not be lost through evaporation.

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