Auckland's water storage continues to fall as the big dry bites, and according to weather forecasters it is not going to improve any time soon.

Restrictions came into force on Saturday for the first time since 1994, amid the driest start to the year on record with only about a third of the average rainfall dropping to replenish rapidly depleting storage dams.

But despite calls to conserve water and bans on residents washing cars or watering gardens with outdoor hoses, consumption rose 29 million litres on Monday from the previous day.

This could be due to many businesses returning to work, but at 433 megalitres it was well above the targeted average of 420 megalitres to get through May.


Meanwhile storage dams, which generally supply about two thirds of the region's water, dropped another 0.2 per cent to 43.7 per cent. The historical average for this time of year is 77 per cent.

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As of Tuesday afternoon Watercare had received 229 tip-offs about breaches of restrictions, but was taking an "education-first approach" at this stage, and no fines had been issued, a spokeswoman said.

There was a big drop-off from the first three days though with just 28 reports on Tuesday.

Most of the complaints were about commercial car washes that had been using recycled water, which is allowed, the spokeswoman said.

Rogue water users can be hit with fines of up to $20,000.

Watercare had earlier asked breaches to be reported or for residents to have a friendly conversation with anybody seen flouting the restrictions to remind them of the shortage of the precious resource.

People can wash their car or water their garden as long as they use a bucket or watering can rather than a hose, Watercare said.


Hoses and water blasters are banned for home or business use unless it is for a health, safety, emergency or biosecurity reason, or they use recycled water.

Watercare has said it could introduce a second level of more severe water restrictions that would impact on businesses if dam levels drop below 40 per cent.

Auckland's storage dams are at alarmingly low levels. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Auckland's storage dams are at alarmingly low levels. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Meanwhile, the dry weather is predicted to continue.

According to Watercare, in the past week there was 86 per cent less rain than normal, and next week is looking even worse.

Forecast company Weatherwatch NZ is also predicting more bad news for the region with just 20 millimetres of rain in the next two weeks as high pressure systems continue to dominate.

"On top of the 2020 droughts we also have the 2019-2020 rainfall deficit meaning this dry autumn will be problematic heading into winter for some people and businesses," the forecaster said.


There was potential for a significant burst of wet weather out of tropical Australia within the next week, with a low growing in the Tasman Sea this weekend.

However, a blocking high pressure to New Zealand's east could keep rainfall totals down in the North Island.

"It's a frustratingly close set-up - and there is still some wiggle room to allow for greater rainfall totals."

Businesses affected by the restrictions, including those in the exterior cleaning industry, have complained the say they are discriminatory towards them and fear there could be job losses.

Troy Hillard, managing director of Wash Rite, which has seven franchises in Auckland, said the ban on the use of hoses and water blasters could cut their revenue by 70 per cent, just as they limp out of Covid-19 impacts.

Several other businesses have contacted the Herald stating the restrictions could lead to job losses.


Watercare had offered to support businesses with tanks of non-potable water to be used in all water-blasting and cleaning work, and said it would set up stations for collection in Onehunga, Penrose and Albany.

But in an email sent to businesses on Friday it announced although they'd all be open Saturday, from Monday only the Penrose station would be operating.

An Auckland Council spokeswoman said it was seeking to open more distribution sites by the end of this week.

Supercity Property Services director Murray Robertson is concerned about the water restrictions for Auckland businesses. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Supercity Property Services director Murray Robertson is concerned about the water restrictions for Auckland businesses. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The operation on Saturday "went smoothly" with more than 16,000 litres supplied, she said.

Watercare is working to increase its capacity at the Waikato River Water Treatment Plant to take an additional 25MLD. Work is expected to be completed by August.

Watercare currently draws 150MLD from the Waikato River, which makes up just over a third of the region's daily usage.


To address the short-term shortage, Watercare was also getting Hays Creek Dam in Papakura running again, and re-establishing a mobile treatment plant at a bore in Pukekohe.

Auckland's council-owned and operated swimming pools are remaining closed due to the water restrictions.

Auckland's water shortage

• Stage 1 water restrictions will be in force from May 16 and prohibit the residential use of outdoor hoses and water blasters unless for a health, safety, emergency or biosecurity reason.

• Under stage 1 commercial car washes are also banned unless they use recycled water; and watering of sports fields, plants or paddocks is restricted to those with an irrigation system fitted with soil moisture or rain sensors.

• Watercare further advises residents to keep showers short - four minutes or less, and only run the dishwasher or washing machine when they're full. No restrictions apply to hygiene measures, and people should continue regularly washing their hands consistent with Covid-19 messaging.