The cost of easing Auckland's drought crisis has risen to an eye-watering $224 million.
The money will be spent over the next 12 months on bringing back old water supplies, upgrading others and taking more water from the Waikato River.
Watercare staff revealed the cost at a confidential council workshop last Thursday, described as a "torrid meeting" by one source and a "water bomb" by a second source.
Councillors spoken to by the Herald were gobsmacked at the latest cost, which is $44m higher than the top estimate of $50m to $180m in the council's "emergency budget".
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It is understood, Watercare was given until last night to come up with solutions to meet the extra costs, including increasing water charges.
One councillor said the cost was another blow to Watercare's poor handling of the water crisis and public criticism at the $775,000 salary paid to chief executive Raveen Jaduram.
What's more, the extra costs are another headache for councillors grappling with a $525m hole in the budget from the impact of Covid-19, leading to savage cuts to transport and loss of community services.
The work on boosting the city's water supply comes as Aucklanders have been told they cannot use outdoor hoses and should limit showers to four minutes.
The measures are the first of a four-stage alert system of increased restrictions to try to avert a worst-case scenario of turning off taps and making people line up for water at hydrants.
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Despite heavy dumps of rain over the last 10 days, meteorologists say the Auckland region still faces long stretches of dry weather through winter and spring.
Auckland's dams were 55.8 per cent full yesterday when normally they would be 79.8 per cent full.
Mayor Phil Goff confirmed measures to increase Auckland's water supply are costed at $224m, subject to further work by Watercare.
He said Watercare has been asked to look at ways to fund the extra cost, including the sale of surplus assets, water pricing, and deferring non-essential capital works.
Goff acknowledged the costs were higher than what is in the draft emergency budget and placed further pressure on the council.
"However, not to act to protect the people of Auckland from severe water restrictions is unacceptable and is not an option," he said.
The mayor said upgrading the Waikato River water treatment plant to cater for an extra 50 million litres a day negotiated with Waikato authorities last week was the biggest cost at $145m.
The upgrade is due to be completed by next winter.
Other costs included $57.5m to bring Hays Creek dam in Papakura back into service, $14m to reinstate the Hickeys Springs bore in Pukekohe and $7.5m to upgrade the Onehunga water treatment plant.
Acting council group chief finance officer Kevin Ramsay said the council and Watercare were exploring every solution to increase Auckland's water supply and better conserve water to avoid Auckland facing a severe water shortage.
"Watercare is preparing detailed analysis and advice for the council on these costs," said Ramsay, saying this will inform councillors when they come to make final decisions on the budget next week.
Watercare did not answer questions from the Herald, leaving the matter to council to respond to.