Aucklanders are using more water despite restrictions coming into force amid the worst drought in the region's history.

Restrictions began 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 hoses, daily consumption rose 29 megalitres (million litres) on Monday from the previous day, and another two megalitres on Tuesday.

An Olympic-sized swimming pool generally contains about 2.5 megalitres.


This increase in consumption could be because many businesses are returning to work, which Watercare had predicted and believed would be temporary, but at 435 megalitres it was well above the targeted average of 420 megalitres to get through May.

Rainfall in the Hunua Ranges. Image / Watercare
Rainfall in the Hunua Ranges. Image / Watercare

The rolling average for the past seven days has been 429 megalitres, and 431 megalitres for May.

Meanwhile storage dams, which generally supply about two thirds of the region's water, dropped another 0.3 per cent from Tuesday to 43.4 per cent Wednesday morning. The historical average for this time of year is 77 per cent.

Watercare has said it could introduce more severe water restrictions that would affect businesses if dam levels drop below 40 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.

The Upper Nihotupu Dam is at 25 per cent capacity. Photo / Watercare
The Upper Nihotupu Dam is at 25 per cent capacity. Photo / Watercare

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 using recycled water, which is allowed, the spokeswoman said.


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

Upper Nihotupu Dam, which is currently at 25 per cent. Photo / Watercare
Upper Nihotupu Dam, which is currently at 25 per cent. Photo / Watercare

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 is also urging residents to save 20 litres of water each, cut showers to four minutes, and all businesses to try and save 10 per cent.

Businesses affected heavily by the outdoor restrictions, including those in the exterior cleaning industry, have complained they are being discriminated against and fear job losses as they are already impacted by the Covid-19 shutdown.

Meanwhile, the dry weather is predicted to continue.

MetService forecasts provided to Watercare show no rain this week, average amounts of rain next week, before dry conditions in the two weeks after that.