+ Rainfall below the 10-year summer average
+ Dry across the whole region - which is unusual
+ Extreme fire danger
With tinder dry conditions and no decent rain predicted, people across the region are being asked to conserve water.
In Whanganui the draw from council reserves is five million litres more than usual for the time of year. Residents are asked not to leave sprinklers on too long and to report leaking water mains.
The drive is to keep enough city water available to fight fires as they arise. Last Friday a spark from an incinerator - lit in ignorance of the total fire ban - scorched three neighbouring lawns.
People are asked to be careful about what they do with cigarette ends and to watch out for sparks that can cause fires when mowing a lawn. Mowing of roadsides has stopped, because it can also create sparks.
Access to the Hylton and Araheke mountain bike parks is restricted to between 6am and 11am, even for walkers and runners.
"People do need to be so careful about anything and everything," Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) Whanganui business services co-ordinator Gwenda Nicolle said.
Fire danger is extreme, and Whanganui, Ruapehu and Rangitīkei are all under total fire bans. No open fires can be lit and only gas and charcoal barbecues are permitted.
Firefighters have been busy in Whanganui town, as have rural teams in the district, Nicolle said.
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Whanganui consumers urged to conserve water use as rural fires, weather take toll
In the Ruapehu district, both the Makotuku and Whanganui rivers are well below their minimum flow levels and restrictions have kicked in. Residents are not allowed to use sprinklers, but can water gardens with handheld hoses during the cool of morning and evening.
They are asked to take short showers, rather than baths.
Marton's water reservoirs were at 85 per cent on February 17, but its water supply dams are very low, Rangitikei District Council executive office manager Carol Gordon said.
She commended Marton residents for their water saving efforts. The town is still on level 1 water restrictions, which means sprinklers are banned and gardens can only be watered with handheld hoses from 4pm to 8pm.
Taihape may move to the same restrictions if there is no rain this week.
There could be some rain at the weekend, MetService said, but it will not be enough to relieve the dryness.
There will be no substantial rain for at least two weeks, Horizons Regional Council chief executive Michael McCartney said.
Rainfall this year has been below the 10-year average, and not what can be expected every summer. What's unique about this dry is that it's across the whole of a wider region.
"The key message from all of us in local government is to use water wisely in towns and rural communities," McCartney said.
Horizons wants to know if farmers are having trouble supplying stock with water, because animal welfare is important.
There have been a lot of dry summers and this one could last another two months, Wanganui Federated Farmers president Mike Cranstone said.
"We did have a reasonably dry winter and early spring, so water levels never really fully recharged from last year."
Most farmers have maximised their water storage to adapt to dry conditions and more storage may be necessary.
Grass growth was good through spring and December. What remains is dry but still okay for breeding stock. Feed for young stock is more of a problem.
Farmers running out of that will want to get stock off their farms - but with dry conditions across the North Island, killing space at meat works is very tight and the coronavirus is causing uncertainty in international markets.
"It's unfortunate that that's connected with such a peak demand for killing space," Cranstone said.
When enough rain comes to break the dry spell, farmers will have to deal with an increase in facial eczema spores - the next challenge.
Cranstone encouraged them to look out for each other, and to remember that the Ruapehu Whanganui Rural Support Trust is there to help them plan and get through hard times.