Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith

Water levels critically low

by Andy Bryenton and Paul Campbell

The Kaipara District Council, along with the Far North District Council, has imposed tough restrictions at level four on the use of town water supply, as the rains stay away and water reserves dry up across Northland. The next stage, as seen in neighbouring town Kaikohe, is strict rationing.

“We’ll all get through this — but not without some pain,” says Kaipara Mayor Jason Smith.

Outside of water reticulation, hundreds of Kaipara residents reliant on rainfall collection are facing up to a fortnight to be resupplied, with local tanker contractors inundated with orders. Of the KDC’s other community water schemes, Ruawai is currently under level two — no sprinkler restriction, while residents in Mangawhai, Maungaturoto and Glinks Gully were being urged to use water sensibly.

Highlighting the regional drought are three plastic water tanks installed in central Kaikohe where residents and businesses will have to queue for rationed water. The level four restrictions now in place for Kaitaia and Kaikohe/Ngawha’s town supplies ban all outdoor water use and mean water can now only be used for essential drinking, cooking and washing.

“Saving every drop of water is critical right now,” says Mayor Smith, reminding people of the current water restrictions and that “everyone needs to try every trick in the book to reduce personal water use.”

Stiff penalties exist for those who persist in using outside taps where they’re on town supplies.

“River and reservoir levels are being monitored daily, and that the Northland Mayoral Forum is meeting via conference call twice a week for the foreseeable future to keep across the looming regional water crisis. Our region-wide team of water experts is working hard with a system that’s creaking now because we simply need real rain,” says Mayor Smith.

Northland Regional Council regulatory services manager Colin Dall says a number of the region’s rivers are already below ‘minimum flow’ levels designed to limit the amount of water that can be taken to protect river ecology.

It was crucial that those who had not already done so began conserving whatever water they could; irrespective of whether they were being forced to via formal district council water restrictions or not.

Mr Dall says the NRC is analysing district councils’ daily water use to make its own important decisions, with regional council staff keeping a close eye on the state of catchments right across the region, all of which, are under increasing pressure to a greater or lesser extent in the current conditions.

Meanwhile, rural residents who have expended their tank water are facing long waits for relief, with water delivery crews reporting being ‘stretched’ to meet demand. The seasonal heat, which peaked in the mid-30s for many parts of the Kaipara, may also be to blame for the demise of mussel shoals at Mangonui Bluff, as revealed by videos posted to local social media.

Similar die-offs were recorded during a heatwave in California in 2019, with marine biologists stating that temperatures more than 27 degrees (when the shellfish were exposed by midday low tides) contributed to their demise. The scenes from Bodega Head, San Francisco are tragically similar to those captured on video locally. A variety of water-saving tips for use in the current situation are available online at bewaterwise.org.nz.