The Far North District Council imposed Level 3 water restrictions on all public supply users in Paihia-Ōpua-Waitangi and Omanaia-Rawene on Friday, making it illegal to use garden hoses, sprinklers or irrigation devices.
General manager infrastructure and asset management Andy Finch said a burst of rain in some areas on Wednesday had been very welcome for those lucky enough to receive it, but was nowhere near enough to recharge water supplies.
"We would need at least five days of solid rain to bring our streams and rivers back to levels where we might reduce water restrictions. We are a long way from considering that, especially with an anticipated surge in demand for water over the Waitangi Day weekend," he said.
Visitor numbers traditionally spike in the Bay of Islands and South Hokianga around Waitangi Day, and the water treatment plants were already operating close to 24 hours a day, leaving no room for repairs in the event of machinery breaking down.
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"The only way to ensure certainty of supply is to conserve water and reduce demand, and I'm pleading with all residents and businesses to ensure visitors know how serious water shortages are in the Far North, and to make sure they conserve this precious resource while they are here," he said, adding that the council was working hard to improve water supplies as quickly as it could.
"A new source for Opononi and Omapere will be online in a matter of days, and we are also exploring alternate supplies for Kaikohe and Kaitaia. That does not reduce the need to conserve water right now. Forecasters say we may not get rain until July, so we all need to prepare for that."
The response from residents to the water shortages had been encouraging, with a spike in leaks reported and significant reductions in consumption in Rawene (down 17 per cent), Kerikeri (down 10 per cent) and Ōkaihau (down 28 per cent).
For more on water restrictions and tips on saving water go to www.bewaterwise.org.nz, and to report leaks or breaches of restrictions phone 0800 920-029.
Kaikohe has drawn water from Lake Omapere in the past, but a council spokesman said last week that the water quality was not good enough to treat efficiently or without mixing with water from another source. The lake was also in private ownership, but, along with other alternatives, would be included in contingency planning as a possible source in an emergency.