The Awanui River, which provides Kaitaia's water supply, has fallen below the minimum level permitted by the Northland Regional Council consent.

Last week the regional council told the Far North District Council two gauges that measure the flow were providing incorrect readings, a manual measure revealing it had fallen to 100 litres per second less than the minimum 460 litres per second dictated by the consent at the point water is taken on the town's southern boundary.

Glenn Rainham, the FNDC's acting general manager infrastructure and asset management, said yesterday that the council was taking immediate steps to reduce the volume of water it took from the river, by supplementing the supply from the town's "back-up water source," the Kauri dam. (The council has for some years declared water from the Kauri dam to be non-potable. Editor).

Each source would provide half the water taken for treatment.

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Earlier in the week the district council announced that Level 2 water restrictions already in place in Kaitaia would be raised to Level 3 (see page 4), prohibiting the use of outdoor hoses for any residence or business connected to the council system. Buckets would have to be used to water gardens and wash cars or boats. Filling private swimming pools with council water was banned.

Mr Rainham said the very low river level could also have an impact on those who used water downstream from Kaitaia, and the river's ecosystem. For those reasons the council ceased discharging treated wastewater from its Kaitaia waste stabilisation ponds over the weekend.

Discharging had resumed after rain fell on Sunday, lifting the river level.

"The quality of wastewater discharges from council ponds is closely monitored, and this will continue," Mr Rainham added.