Residents in a rural Hawke's Bay village say they are driving 40 minutes to bathe because their water supplies are drying up.
Ongaonga locals are fed up as they watch vast quantities of water irrigate green-grassed dairy farm paddocks, and say water for 33 families is hitting critical levels.
But the Hawke's Bay Regional Council says its investigations show the locals' plight is not linked to farming. The council is suggesting residents upgrade their bores to reach the deeper groundwater that irrigators can access.
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Financial support is available for those needing to upgrade their domestic bores, the council says.
Bill Stevenson, who has been fighting the council on the issue for the past 16 years, reckons the council's response to the residents' plight is an "utter disgrace".
Stevenson, who resides on the hard-hit Mills Rd, says: "There has always been a problem with over-allocation. It is a complete, and utter disgrace, they are supposed to look after everyone," Stevenson said.
The council though, says this is speculation on Stevenson's part.
Stevenson says water levels had reached the point where people, mostly pensioners, were having to go into town, either Waipukurau or Waipawa, to do their washing, and showering.
"The lady up the road spent 10 days without any water.
"She has a broken leg and a fractured ankle. We were taking water to her, then she bit the bullet and spent approximately $6800 on a submersible bore pump."
Thirty-three households so far have been impacted by the bores nearly running dry.
That's despite 21 of them spending nearly $150,000 in total to get submersible bore pumps between 2012 and 2016, Stevenson said.
Another of his neighbours would be spending approximately $24,000 to get a new bore and submersible pump this summer, he said.
"When we had the first lot of 21 houses hit between 2012 and 2016, they had no flushing, no toilets, no gardening, no gardens," Stevenson said.
In 2016, the water completely ran out, he said.
"So we bit the bullet and got a 25 metre submersible bore."
He said the ideal scenario would be council putting controls on irrigators.
Hawke's Bay Regional Council science manager Jeff Smith said much of Hawke's Bay was already very dry.
"In the Heretaunga Plains, Central Hawke's Bay and southern catchments soil moisture deficit is approximately 30 to 50 per cent drier than normal," Smith said.
He said issues with access to groundwater for domestic bores had been raised in the past.
"Some Ongaonga residents are speculating the shallow groundwater system is being affected by local irrigation and in turn this was affecting their ability to pump water for domestic use," Smith said.
The regional council installed two monitoring bores last year addressing the concerns, he said.
"The results from those bores showed no evidence of a connection between private domestic bores struggling to pump water and irrigators taking water from the deeper groundwater."
Smith said the shallow groundwater, which is where residents were sourcing their water had dropped steadily this summer, but it was not surprising given the dry summer the region had so far.
"In most cases, loss of access to groundwater in Ongaonga is due to the use of surface mounted pumps that are unable to pump from depths that groundwater levels reduce to during long dry spells," he said.
"While most groundwater in the Ongaonga township is drawn from relatively shallow depths, surface-mounted pumps are only capable of drawing groundwater from 5 to 8m.
"Another common cause of this problem is a lack of well maintenance that can cause screens or pumps to become clogged with sediment."
Smith said it was natural for residents to worry if their well was no longer providing water and they should contact a well driller to investigate and advise on solutions.
To identify the scale of this problem, the regional council is maintaining a register of well owners that have lost access to groundwater and those affected should call 0800 108 838.