Northland Regional Council hydrology monitoring Officer Marcus Schlesier gauging river flow rates last week

Council issues water warning

by Paul Campbell

With no significant summer rain forecast local authorities are facing an increasingly parched Northland, parts of which experienced some of the driest conditions in decades last year.

Northland Regional Council regulatory services manager, Colin Dall says the Brynderwyn area has had 976mm of rain against a yearly average of 1,390mm, the lowest rainfall since records began in the 1980s.

Kaipara District Council has used the bewaterwise.org.nz website to advise “sensible use” of water across the district, with a reporting system in cases of excessive water use. Rainfall figures for the entire year had confirmed it had been one of the driest on record in many parts of Northland, and in one case; the second driest where those records stretched back more than a century.

Mr Dall says with such a large regional rainfall deficit, recovery could take a number of years even once summer was over and the rain came again.

“A number of Northland rivers are now below designated ‘minimum flow’ levels designed to limit the amount of water that can be taken during dry periods to protect river ecology.

“At this point, we’ve got about half a dozen consent holders who have ceased their takes in accordance with their resource consent conditions (mainly in the mid and Far North areas) and council has also had to impose restrictions on some other users.”

Mr Dall says district councils taking water for public supply and farmers irrigating pasture are among the biggest users. “With summer now in full swing and no significant rain forecast, members of the council’s hydrology team are currently gauging some of the more critical rivers in the region to ensure they have the most up-to-date data and figures to work with.

“Preliminary information suggests a number of rivers are already below ‘minimum flow’ levels, and although this isn’t unusual during a dry summer, this wouldn’t usually happen until February or March and is linked to last year’s drier conditions.”

The council was also receiving a high volume of calls from members of the public reporting potentially unauthorised or excessive water use, each of which was being investigated to ensure compliance with regional rules.