Slight easing of water restrictions in Auckland next month

6:37 pm on 24 September 2020

Auckland Council has opted to slightly ease water restrictions, but the region's water woes are far from over.

Upper Nihotupu Reservoir.

A view of Upper Nihotupu Reservoir in Waitākere Ranges, which supplies water to Auckland. (File image). Photo: 123RF

Restrictions on commercial users will be eased in first - but loosening of restrictions on residential users is yet to be decided.

The continuing water crisis still looms in the background, as the region's dams are currently 67 percent full compared with 90 percent this time a year ago.

Watercare has set a goal of getting dams 75 percent full by the end of October.

The plan proposed by the water authority will see restrictions on commercial users eased on 12 October.

This is set to help relieve the economic pressure caused by mandatory water restrictions on sectors that rely on water access, such as water blasters.

When the changes kick in, businesses will be able to use outdoor hoses with a handheld trigger nozzle and commercial car washes can also operate.

Auckland Council will revisit restrictions on households in December, taking dam levels and the summer rain forecast into consideration.

Watercare made the proposal based on Aucklanders' good response to current restrictions - a report presented to the council showed with water savings by the public exceeded the 5 percent expectation.

The report also pointed to weather forecasts which estimate spring will bring more rain than originally anticipated, but warns that further severe water restrictions may be necessary if this rain doesn't fall.

Watercare is also banking on new water sources - including from the Waikato River - to bring in an extra 71 million megalitres a day by June 2021.

Mayor Phil Goff cautioned against lifting all water restrictions, in light of a dry forecast.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff speaks to media following Cabinet's extension of the alert level 3 lockdown.

Mayor Phil Goff Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

He said nobody would be happy if more severe restrictions were needed in the future because the council eased the current restrictions too early.

Goff was also concerned that the city would face drought three years in a row and that climate change had not been taken into proper consideration.

"Every morning I wake up praying for rain, but it's not happening and I can't guarantee it."

Councillor Richard Hills was worried about history repeating itself.

"Our dams looked mighty fine last summer, but then we very, very quickly drained them. There is a risk that that happens again."

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