It's a tale of two Supercities.

Aucklanders on tank water are in dire straits, skipping showers, stopping laundry and watching their gardens wither to dust as they face up to six weeks' wait for water delivery.

The city is set to beat its all-time record for the longest dry spell with this Saturday marking 40 consecutive days with less than 1mm of rain. 2013 holds the current record of 39 days.

Niwa says Northland, Auckland and northern Waikato are in severe meteorological drought, while other parts of New Zealand are also parched.

Advertisement

Many areas including Gisborne, Wellington, Hawke's Bay and the Tasman district face water restrictions, and from today the entire North Island and much of the South Island are under a complete fire ban thanks to the hot, dry conditions.

READ MORE
NZ drought: Auckland set to break record for longest dry spell
Aucklanders urged to cut water use as demand soars
The big dry: Auckland Council looking into milk tankers to assist desperate residents on tank water
What will Auckland's 2050 climate feel like?

Some rain is forecast for Auckland from mid-next week, but it won't be enough - Niwa says a full month's worth of rain is needed to bring soil moisture back to normal levels

Yet despite the drought Aucklanders on town water can still turn their taps on full-bore, water the garden and even clean the car.

Even Auckland Council is still watering grass - despite Watercare urging the public to cut water use. Sprinklers were in use at Victoria Park in the CBD and Mt Albert's Phyllis Park on Wednesday - to the horror of Herald readers who had just been asked to cut their showers to four minutes.

Auckland Council head of operational management and maintenance Agnes McCormack said while Aucklanders needed to be mindful of their water consumption, Watercare had advised the metropolitan water supply was stable.

"Auckland Council's network of pools, parks, community buildings and maintenance requirements are being assessed with the view for non-essential work, requiring water, to be deferred or scaled back," she said.

"Essential irrigation on sports fields may still need to be undertaken to protect council's investment in these. Where possible non-potable water supplies will be used to reduce the drain on water volumes and frequency."

Advertisement
Kieran O'Flynn and dog Griffin play in the sprinkler system at Victoria Park in Auckland's CBD on Wednesday. Water is restricted in much of the North Island - but not Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig
Kieran O'Flynn and dog Griffin play in the sprinkler system at Victoria Park in Auckland's CBD on Wednesday. Water is restricted in much of the North Island - but not Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig

As of Sunday Auckland's reservoir levels were 71 per cent full, compared to the historical average of 83 per cent.

However, Watercare was encouraging people to use water wisely, especially on hot days after the city smashed consumption records on February 4, using 561 million litres in one day.

Such profligate water use is hard to fathom for those on the outskirts of Auckland who run on tank water.

Ruth Morrow has two 18,000L tanks at her home in Kaipara Flats. For the first time in 13 years they're on the verge of running dry. Thankfully she ordered water five weeks ago and is expecting a 12,000L delivery next week at a cost of $230.

"But it's not going to last long," Morrow said. "I tried to book another because we don't know when we're going to get rain, but nobody's taking any bookings. What happens then?"

Ruth Morrow's family - including grandsons Maika, 2 (left) and Siti, 3 - are taking 30-second showers to eke out their last litres of tank water before a delivery next week. Photo / Supplied
Ruth Morrow's family - including grandsons Maika, 2 (left) and Siti, 3 - are taking 30-second showers to eke out their last litres of tank water before a delivery next week. Photo / Supplied

Their household of six - including two young children - is very conscious of saving water, Morrow said.

She's buying drinking water, filling containers at work, and the family are taking 30 second showers.

"I've actually taped off the taps so nobody turns them on," she said. "If we run out of water that'll stuff a $1000 pump. It's touch and go if we make it [to next week] or if we run out... With two young children aged 2 and 3 that's not ideal."

Their two-acre property is dry as dust.

"It even hurts to put out a bowl of water for the cat."

Those on town supply are helping out - with some businesses like Mitre 10s and fire stations in north Auckland offering free water to anyone who needs it.

On Wednesday Auckland Council and Watercare announced new measures to help get water where it's needed, including letting people fill containers for domestic use at four community hubs, and leisure centres on Auckland's outskirts offering free showers.

Shortly 10,000L water tanks will be distributed for people to fill up domestic water containers. The council and Watercare are also working on getting milk tankers to help with the shortfall.

Morrow was unimpressed with the council's response - saying efforts should have been ramped up sooner.

"I saw they've reduced Auckland to four-minute showers. I would kill for four-minute showers."

The ground at Ruth Morrow's property in Kaipara Flats is as dry as dust and there's no rain forecast. Photo / Supplied
The ground at Ruth Morrow's property in Kaipara Flats is as dry as dust and there's no rain forecast. Photo / Supplied

She blamed Auckland Council for allowing farms to be subdivided - meaning more and more tanks on every street without an increase in supply.

There are about 50,000 households on rainwater tanks across Auckland, the council says. Most are in the Waitākere Ranges, Rodney, Franklin and Albany wards and many of them are angry, judging by comments on social media.

One woman posted to Facebook saying she hadn't showered at home for over a week and were flushing toilets with stream water. She could not get a delivery before March. The Herald profiled another West Auckland family with a two-week-old baby who face nearly another month before their tank can be filled.

The original owners of their 3-year-old house had opted for a $3500 tank rather than paying the $12,500 to connect to the city supply.

All 11 of Watercare's tanker filling stations in Auckland are open 24/7 as tankers fill frantically to help their customers.

Health Water Tanks Ltd posted to Facebook last week warning there was a 200-house waiting list to get tanks filled. Their sole tanker was fully booked till the end of February.

An update from us... as a team we are desperately trying to help everyone. Everyone who calls us needs water, everyone...

Posted by Healthy Water Tanks Ltd on Friday, 7 February 2020

"Everyone who calls us needs water, everyone is desperate, and we are hurting for all of you," the post said.

Customers were advised to be patient and warned if they got abusive they would not be serviced.