Water levels extremely low and dropping; total outdoor water ban introduced

News from Wellington City Council
Wellingtonians are asked to do their bit to save water as the drought continues to worsen. Rain this weekend is not expected to make a significant dent in the water shortage affecting the region.

Water levels in our local rivers – the source of our water supply – are extremely low and dropping. A significant reduction in demand for water will extend the number of days that back-up storage will last, so it’s important to save water now.

From Saturday, there will be a ban on all outdoor water use in Wellington, Lower Hutt, Porirua and Upper Hutt until further notice. This includes sprinklers, irrigation systems, hoses and watering cans.

This ban is needed to ensure there will be enough water for the essential needs of households, businesses and public services in the event the current dry period continues. Extra restrictions may be needed if our water reserves continue to drop.

If businesses rely on water for their outdoor work – painting firms that use water blasters, for example – we ask that they be prudent with their use of water at this stage and not use water if at all possible. If the water shortage continues we may also have to impose a total ban on commercial outdoor activity.

How you can help save water
Adopting simple water saving measures now will help Wellington avoid a severe water crisis.

We’re asking all water users to reduce their water use by at least 30 litres per person per day. Depending on the type of toilet, this is about the same amount of water as three to four full flushes.

Put a full bottle of water in your toilet cistern if you don’t have a dual flush toilet, or limit the time you spend in the shower. Fix any leaks around the house and don’t run taps unnecessarily – turn the tap off when you’re cleaning your teeth. It all sounds like small stuff, but together it adds up.

Greater Wellington Regional Council will update its website regularly to show how the efforts to reduce water use are going. To view these updates visit http://www.gw.govt.nz/water

What about the garden?
From Saturday 16 March you won’t be able to use a hose or mains water to irrigate your garden – but there is nothing to stop residents from, say, putting a bucket in the shower and collecting water while you’re showering. This water – which would otherwise go straight down the drain, can be used to water the garden.

Similarly, why not think about using water from cooking, or from washing the dishes, to put on the garden?

Enforcement
So far it appears Wellingtonians are taking the water shortage seriously and are cutting back on usage. However local councils will respond to complaints about breaches of the outdoor water ban. Warnings will be issued and councils reserve the right to prosecute if warnings are ignored. The maximum fine for breaches of the ban is $20,000.

If you are aware of unlawful water use then call Wellington City Council on 499 4444 and we’ll investigate.

What the Wellington City Council is doing
The City Council has to do its bit too – and because the Council has the power to impose the outdoor-use ban, there is already intense public interest in how we are dealing with the water shortage.

We have made the tough decision that we will cease the daily irrigation – from the mains – of our sportsfields and gardens immediately – except for our most valuable and vulnerable plants. While we reserve the right to review this decision, because a lack of water clearly has serious implications for the wellbeing of our grass surfaces especially, we have to demonstrate to residents that we are cutting back on water use as well.

An exception is Waitangi Park on Wellington’s waterfront. This can continue to be irrigated using water from the Waitangi Stream, which runs under the park.

We are cutting back on water use at a range of Council facilities.

For example we will immediately ask people to avoid, if possible, using our showers at our pools and sports pavilions. The showers are one of the biggest consumers of water across the Council. We are also cutting back on the replenishment of pool water and on hose-down pressures.

We are turning off fountains and water features as much as possible (one notable exception is the Bucket Fountain in the Cuba Mall. This uses recirculated water – and we have found that the fountain quickly becomes damaged if the water is turned off – people start climbing on it).

We have closed wash-down facilities at such locations as our marinas and the Makara Peak mountainbike park.

We are ceasing use of pressure washers for routine work around the city and only deploying them where a spillage introduces a public health or environmental risk. We will also stop mechanical road sweeping in areas where water is required to dampen dust.

We are looking at possible alternative emergency sources of water if the drought situation worsens. These include, for example, the dam at Zealandia and possible drawing of water from the stormwater network to water sportsfields.

We are getting in touch with the city’s big water users – including Capital & Coast District Health Board, the Fire Service, the universities and Taylor Preston – to ask them to work hard to reduce water use. We’re also talking to golf clubs and bowling clubs and asking them to stop watering.

While rain is forecast for this weekend and possibly early next week, if the supply situation worsens then we may have to impose more stringent bans – including a full ban on outdoor water use by commercial operators.

Press Release – Greater Wellington Regional Council – March 14
Adopting simple water saving measures now will help Wellington avoid a severe water crisis. Water levels in the rivers are extremely low and dropping. A significant reduction in demand for water will extend the number of days that back-up storage will last, so it’s important to save water now.

Greater Wellington Regional Council is asking all water users to reduce their water use by at least 30 litres per person per day. Depending on the type of toilet, this is about the same amount of water as three to four full flushes.

The Regional Council has recommended to city councils that they further restrict outdoor water use. Those restrictions will come into force on Saturday in the form of a total outdoor water use ban.

Greater Wellington Regional Council Chair Fran Wilde says that everyone needs to take steps now to use less water.

“We need to get water use down to at least 130 million litres per day – that’s equivalent to a low water use day in winter. So it is achievable, but not without everyone doing their bit. Unfortunately we can’t know what the weather is going to do, so we need to make sure we’re not squandering the water we do have available, in case we need it further down the track.”

As well as reducing outdoor water use, Chair Wilde says there are methods that can be used to reduce water inside too.

“Put a full bottle of water in your toilet cistern if you don’t have a dual flush toilet, or limit the time you spend in the shower. Fix any leaks around the house and don’t run taps unnecessarily – turn the tap off when you’re cleaning your teeth. It all sounds like small stuff, but together it adds up.”

The Regional Council will be updating its website regularly to show how the efforts to reduce water use are going. To view these updates visit http://www.gw.govt.nz/water

Greater Wellington Regional Council supplies water to Lower Hutt, Porirua, Upper Hutt and Wellington.

Currently the Regional Council is supplying approximately 150 million litres of water per day (ML/d), from rivers and the Hutt aquifer. However, as river levels drop, the amount of water available to take from them decreases and water needs to be made up from stored water and the aquifer beneath Lower Hutt. The Regional Council is asking people to reduce water use significantly in order to get this figure down to 130 ML/d –– this will extend the number of days that storage will last with continuing low rainfall.

City councils are responsible for setting and enforcing the watering restrictions and bans so people should check with their local city council if they need more information on restrictions in their area.

Press Release – Kapiti Coast District Council
Mayor Jenny Rowan has congratulated Kāpiti residents for responding to water restrictions by ‘significantly’ reducing consumption. Even so, as the big dry continues, from Friday the district’s water supply will be supplemented with 10% bore water. The blended supply will take about two days to reach most customers and, because the highest quality bore water is being used, there is not expected to be a discernable taste difference.

Mayor Rowan says the water crisis facing the Wellington region is serious and a reminder why Council has made a long term water supply solution for Kāpiti a priority.

“We know all about water shortages in this district. That’s why Council has worked very hard to future-proof Kāpiti’s water supply and make the district self-sufficient. We’ve done this by developing a river recharge project using a significant bore field beneath Waikanae to top up the river (a resource consent application is currently before Greater wellington). We’ve bought land for a future dam, we require new homes to have rain water tanks and grey water systems and we’ve introduced water meters which will lead to a change in the way people use treated water.

Mayor Rowan says water meters are also uncovering significant water leaks.

“We’ve already detected more than 350 leaks on private property amounting to potential savings of more than 1.8m litres per day. That’s like loosing three Ōtaki swimming pools worth of water every day.”

Mayor Rowan says whilst there is always some public reaction to the use of bore water, the district is fortunate to have this option.

“We are lucky to have these natural resources to get us through this dry patch but people still need to keep up their water conservation behaviour.

A total ban on outdoor water use is about to be enforced across Wellington, the Hutt Valley and Porirua as water shortages become critical. Councils are planning to turn off irrigation systems for sports fields, which may affect their readiness for winter sport.

Council sports fields in Kapiti are irrigated with bore water so are not facing the same plight.

“Whilst I feel concerned for the wider region, I am proud that this Council has pressed ahead with strategies that have made us independent when it comes to our most precious commodity, says Mayor Rowan.”

 

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