2 Jul 2020

Aucklanders may still have to conserve water despite interim agreement

12:56 pm on 2 July 2020

Aucklanders may still have water restrictions during the summer, despite an agreement to take more water from the Waikato River.

A bridge over the Waikato River near Tuakau.

A bridge over the Waikato River near Tuakau. Photo: Unsplash / Jan Kaluza

Authorities agreed in principle to allow Auckland to take extra water as an interim measure to help ease the region's drought crisis.

The city will take 25 megalitres a day from Hamilton City Council's allocation, and up to 50 megalitres a day from other unused allocations.

The 25 megalitres allocation will be available over summer, and the rest in the winter months of April next year to October.

Watercare chief executive Raveen Jaduram said restrictions may still be needed.

"If spring is dry, as has been forecast, and summer is dry, it is likely we will continue with some level of water conservation."

Jaduram said the agreement was in fact to take a maximum of 100 megalitres a day in winter, but Auckland isn't able to use the whole amount because it doesn't have the infrastructure to process it. He said it would take 12-14 months build a new treatment plant to boost capacity.

The agreement was a short-term solution, he said.

"We have always said to Waikato-Tainui and Waikato Regional Council that we won't be going back to the Waikato River each time we needed more water.

"Aucklanders need to find another source of water, and the only options left to Auckland would then be desalination or purified, recycled waste water being treated again into drinking water.

"That would be for late 2030s or 2040."

He was prepared for the need to address public distaste for the idea of recycling wastewater.

"There's always going to be objections, because firstly there's a feeling of 'yuk' that that's wastewater, and there's always going to be objections maybe from a cultural point of view.

"But this is long term planning."

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff told First Up Auckland had sought a partnership with the Waikato, and was not "being entitled, demanding things".

A trust fund could be set up to look after the health of the Waikato River.

"I talked about the concept of a trust fund which would fund projects to improve the health of the river, to lift the water quality, to stop some of the pollution from the septic tanks, from the effluent runoff from dairy farms, from sewage systems further up the river.

Goff said the long-term solution for resilience was recycling waste water.

"Many cities do this, Singapore relies almost entirely on recycled water.

"But it would be a longer term plan, and we're talking about probably investing a billion dollars in order to recycle that waste water."

Auckland wasn't wasting water, he said. "It's got the second lowest per household consumption of water in the whole country after the Bay of Plenty".

To encourage the use of rainwater the council has stopped charging for resource consents for the installation of storage tanks.

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