4 Dec 2017

Hot, dry conditions prompt water restrictions

7:21 pm on 4 December 2017

Super dry conditions across the country have sparked calls for greater water conservation efforts, as the summer continues to heat up.

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Photo: 123rf.com

In Napier, residents are being told their city could run out of water tonight if people don't start turning off their taps.

Napier City Council's infrastructure manager John Kingsford said the reservoir levels were the lowest they had been in recent years.

Usually peak water usage did not occur until January or February, but already the temperatures in Hawke's Bay were reaching the late 20s and that had led to greater water use, he said.

People should reduce their use of water for discretionary matters such as irrigating gardens and lawns, but they could still use it for drinking, cooking and washing.

Meanwhile in the South Island, Hanmer residents in North Canterbury are also facing water restrictions after recent storms blocked part of the main water source and hot weather has reduced water supplies.

The town is now on level three water restrictions, which means no hoses, sprinklers, car washing or filling swimming pools.

Hanmer Springs' water comes entirely from the nearby Rogerson River and the local council's service delivery manger Dan Harris said thunderstorms last week increased silt levels in the river, blocking some of the town's water supply.

Mr Harris said machinery was en route to the town to unblock the water supply inlet, and council engineers were looking at the nearby Dillions River as a back-up water source.

Dry paddocks near Ranfurly and Kyeburn in Maniototo.

Paddocks near Ranfurly and Kyeburn in Maniototo also faced very dry conditions nearly three years ago, with drought declared in February 2015. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

'Pretty grim'

Irrigation is already stopping in the country's driest region, Central Otago, as very dry conditions take hold at least a month earlier than usual.

The Taieri River dropped below its minimum-allowed flow at two sites this morning, triggering a shutdown of irrigation permits.

Restrictions have also begun on the Pomahaka and Kakanui rivers, which are heading the same way.

Otago regional council's director of environmental monitoring Scott MacLean said the dry conditions were about a month earlier than the drought two years ago when a water shortage was declared.

Mr MacLean said the situation was worrying.

"It's extremely dry but there is very little in the way of snowcap to augment [rivers] through snow melt, which we often see at this time of year...

"If the dry and hot weather continues with no rain, it will be a pretty grim season."

Mr MacLean said almost all Otago's main rivers were dropping quickly.

Two years ago there was a farmer outcry in Central Otago as water restriction bit hard in an widespread East Coast drought.

If it doesn't rain soon, this year could be worse.

The area's main river the Taieri this morning triggered a minimum flow shutdown, and the Pomahaka in South Otago and Kakanui in North Otago are not far behind.

Almost all Otago's main rivers are dropping quickly, leaving low flows at least a month earlier than in the last drought, said Mr MacLean.

The heat of the past three weeks has been unseasonal and hard going for farmers, said Gavan Herlihy of Patearoa.

"I can't recall periods of day-after-day of over 30 degree temperatures, and that's been pretty taxing on the natural flow of creeks from Central Otago's hinterlands [and] major waterways like the Taieri River", said Mr Herlihy.

There's a particularly irony too that the Taieri River, which did so much damage in July with its second highest flood on record should now be running out of water.

"In Maniototo, there's an old saying that there's only a fortnight between a feast and a famine, and that's proving very very true this particular year", said Mr Herlihy.

Meanwhile, Kaikōura District Council is planning a total fire ban from Thursday, as the weather continues to heat up.

The Selwyn District Council is also planning a fire ban this week, with the fire department telling people to remove dry vegetation from around their houses.

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