Environment Waikato is banning all non-essential water use in the Waihou River area for the next 14 days because of excessively low flows.
Water use is restricted to domestic and stock watering – and the Council is concerned the situation could continue throughout the summer. The river is in a once-in-10-years low flow state, and the lack of water has come about a month earlier than expected for summer flows.
Ten days ago the Council reminded river water users to abide by consent conditions and warned that restrictions were likely as dry weather continued. About 30 farms in the area have water use permits and will all be affected by the restrictions.
The ban affects properties in the Tirau, Putaruru, Okoroire, Te Aroha and Paeroa areas. District Councils in these areas are also being asked to issue restrictions on municipal supplies to conserve available supply.
Environment Waikato Resource Officer Rob Dragten says the situation is serious because low flows are normally not experienced until late February, and the Council has not had to ban water use in the Waihou area before.
“We would like people to not water their gardens at all and only use essential water.”
Most at risk is Kerepehi’s town supply. The town’s supply is only just above salt water intrusion level from the tide, and unusually high tides are expected in early February. The town has recently only been able to take about half its normal water requirement because of the combined effect of low river levels and high tides.
The main cause of the problem is lower rainfall over a long period. While winter rains were higher than normal, over the past year rainfall has been about 250mm less than usual. The area had less than half its normal rainfall in October and two thirds of normal in November. Tributaries flowing into the river are not as low as the main river, but it is thought that river water may be recharging into groundwater.
Water levels will be re-evaluated after the 14 day period, and restrictions may need to be reinstated if significant rain has not fallen in the meantime, Mr Dragten says.
This media item was current at its release date. The facts or figures it contains may have changed since its original publication.