Water restrictions may soon become a regular summer occurrence in Whangārei, according to mayor Sheryl Mai.
The city had its driest year on record in 2019, and we can expect more record dry years in the future.
"I'm very concerned. The long term forecasts are for this type of level of rainfall to be the new normal," Mai said.
"The change is obvious."
According to the Ministry for the Environment's website, spring rainfall in Whangārei is expected to decrease by 3 to 17 per cent by 2090 and the yearly time spent in drought could more than double in length, depending on the climate model considered.
Mai said this needs to be taken into account by the council in its long term planning.
"We have to plan for this to be the way we manage water from here on in," she said.
Despite heavy rain this month, Whangārei is still under level 3 water restrictions, which limits non-essential use of water such as garden hoses, irrigation systems and filling swimming pools.
Mai cautioned Whangārei residents that although grass around the city has turned green again, the drought is still a problem.
"Sadly, it's below the surface that the problems are," she said. "We've still got a massive soil moisture deficit."
WDC Water Services manager Andrew Venmore shares her concern.
"I would certainly say I'm worried. The long-range forecast isn't promising," he said, adding that even with the council's contingencies to provide water, the district will still rely on rainfall.
"There are plans we are beginning to implement now to obtain water from other sources, but at the end of the day - you're still going to need it to rain."
Drier conditions will have far-reaching effects for Whangārei, especially considering the district's dependence on its farms, said Mai.
"It has really big implications long term. Our economy relies on primary industry like agriculture and horticulture, which of course rely on water. It will affect the economy in a really big way."
She urged the people of Whangārei to reconsider their water usage in light of this. "Be conservative. Treat [water] as precious," she said.