Gisborne water use soars and supplies low, following heatwave

7:48 pm on 8 February 2020

Gisborne residents are being urged to conserve water following a record-breaking heatwave, as the council ponders further water restrictions.

Garden sprinkler use has been restricted, with more restrictions potentially on the cards for Gisborne residents.

Photo: 123rf

Gisborne hit at least 30C on nine days in the past fortnight, peaking at 37C on 31 January.

That has led to water consumption outstripping the 22.2 million litres a day supplied by the Waingake water treatment plant - the principal source of the city's water - Gisborne District Council drinking water team leader Judith Robertson said.

In the past week, the city has used 26m litres a day on average. It used 27.8m litres in the 24 hours to 8am on 1 February, and demand had decreased to 23.7m litres by 8am yesterday.

The use of garden sprinklers has been restricted to two hours a day since 30 January. However, further restrictions may be needed, Ms Robertson said.

Forecasts expected temperatures to drop to high 20s from yesterday, but there was very little rain forecast for the next two weeks and possibly till the end of the month, she said.

The council will monitor consumption rates and dam levels over the weekend and make a call on further restrictions on Monday.

"In the meantime, we ask the community to be conscious with their water use."

The next level of water restriction is a total sprinkler ban, followed by a total outdoor water ban, including restrictions on industry.

Robertson said the current demand for water has been impacted by seasonal food and wine industries, which are in full swing.

Other businesses that rely on river water for irrigation have also been affected by the heat and lack of rain, with some rivers too depleted for water takes.

The city has a back-up supply in the Waipaoa River water treatment plant, which has been producing 8.6m litres a day.

But the plant will be shut down if river flows drop below 1.3 cubic metres per second.

Waipaoa River was flowing at 1.7 cubic metres per second at Kanakania Bridge, Te Karaka, yesterday.

DB Judd contractors manager Rose Pepere said the phone had been running hot in the past few weeks with people in need of water tank refills, although that was not unusual at this time of year.

A wet December had been followed by little rain, so low tank levels may have caught some people unawares, Pepere said.

The company's two tankers were running at capacity yesterday and bookings for today were looking similar, she said.

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the Newspaper Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs