A fraction of the normal rainfall in April and falling dam levels have prompted the Whangārei District Council to upgrade water restrictions to Level 3.

Just 12mm of rain fell in Whangārei in the month to yesterday compared with about 130mm that Whangarei usually receives during April.

Level 3 restrictions come into force from 8am tomorrow and allow people to use a can to water gardens and a bucket to wash vehicles, windows, buildings and paved areas.

Use of a sprinkler or irrigation system and hosing gardens and filling swimming pools from mains supply are not allowed.

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"Generally people are doing reasonably well in terms of water conservation but, individually, people are using a little bit more water at home than usual at this time of the year. Level 3 is more to limit outdoor and unnecessary use," WDC water services manager Andrew Venmore said.

"There are showers around and it's warm so people tend to use water outside but the businesses are closed, so it tends to balance itself out. We don't want people to stop washing their hands. Hose pipe use outdoors is banned but people can use a watering can."

Water level at the Whau Valley Dam is down to 47 per cent— the second-lowest since it was built in 1969 — while Wilsons Dam is at its lowest level since it was constructed in 2003, at 61 per cent.

Venmore said the lowest water level recorded at the Whau Valley Dam was 20 per cent in June 1987 during a severe drought although Whangārei was not as dry then as it is at present.

"At 47 per cent, we are concerned but then we are coming into the wetter months. If it was 47 per cent in September heading into the summer months, I'd be more concerned. Or if we get to September and the level is still around 50 per cent, then I'd be concerned,"
he said.

Level 3 water restrictions will be in force for Whangārei residents from Thursday morning. Photo / Supplied
Level 3 water restrictions will be in force for Whangārei residents from Thursday morning. Photo / Supplied

WDC is presently pumping 40cu m of water an hour from the Hatea River but a resource consent allows it to draw more whenever it rains.

Niwa last week predicted up to 50mm of rain to fall in parts of Northland during the Easter long weekend but the region received mostly isolated showers.

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Whangārei received just 7mm, Kaikohe 11mm, and Kerikeri 21mm in the four days of the long weekend.

MetService meteorologist Andrew James said Northland was in line to receive frequent showers from today until Friday as a front moved across the country.

A spell of rain is forecast from Saturday morning.

Cold air associated with a southwest flow was also bringing showers across much of Northland at present, he said.

Level 2 restrictions have been in force in Whangārei since February 26 while much tighter limits on water take are in place in the Far North and Kaipara districts.

The whole of the Kaipara region has Level 4 restrictions that allow for household use only while Kaitaia, Kaikohe, Kawakawa-Moerewa and Rawene-Ōmanaia in the Far North face similar prohibitions.

Residents connected to the Kerikeri-Waipapa, Paihia-Waitangi-Ōpua and Ōpononi-Ōmapere town supplies are subject to Level 3 restrictions which ban the use of garden hoses and sprinklers. In Ōkaihau (Level 2), only sprinklers are banned.

Niwa records show just 63mm of rain fell in Whangārei last month.