12 Oct 2020

Water restrictions eased for Auckland businesses

6:34 pm on 12 October 2020

The taps can be turned back on without restrictions for commercial water users in the Auckland region, much to the relief of water-reliant businesses, but the region's water woes are far from over.

Aerials and stills of the Upper Mangatangi Dam at 44% of capacity

Upper Mangatangi Dam at 44 percent of capacity in June 2020. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Restrictions on water use have been used by Auckland Council since May as part of efforts to claw back healthy margins of water in storage for the region after a severe and prolonged drought.

Today the region's dams are 66.8 percent full - compared to the usually 91.4 percent full at this time of year - and Auckland Council is not ruling out restrictions being re-imposed or limits becoming the norm for every summer.

Auckland businesses are now allowed to use outdoor hoses with a handheld trigger nozzle and commercial car washes can also operate again.

However, there are no changes to the ban on outdoor hoses for residential users, who need to save about 20 litres a day each - and are still restricted to using buckets for things like watering the garden or washing the car.

Elite Waterblasting Ltd owner Brian Edwards rallied against the water restrictions earlier this year, claiming the tap had been turned off on businesses.

He helped establish the Exterior Cleaning Industry Association, a group that has worked with Watercare to set best practice guidelines to help minimise water waste by businesses.

The industry association lobbied for access to the taps, based on the claim the sector used 0.07 percent of the water used every day in the city.

"That's not seven days a week - so it drops lower to most likely 0.05 percent. It's not a lot."

Edwards said it was a privilege to be able to use city water again. He said he was aware the drought was far from over and restrictions remained on households.

"Water is like gold. It's precious, it's priceless.

"They've turned the taps back on the industry, they can turn them back off quickly," he said.

Watercare acting chief executive Marlon Bridge said easing restrictions was the right thing to do for the sake of businesses being hit in the pocket by Covid-19 lockdowns.

Upper Mangatawhiri Dam, Hunua ranges 7 Oct 2020

The Upper Mangatawhiri Dam, in the Hunua ranges on 7 October. Photo: supplied

Bridge said water restrictions would be necessary for this summer, while new water sources are secured, and anticipated rainfall makes up for last summer's drought.

But once these are secured he doesn't think water restrictions in future summers will be necessary.

He said it was too early to tell whether residential restrictions will be eased - that depended on whether Aucklanders continue to save water and on rainfall levels.

Many cities around the country - such as Christchurch, Whangārei and Tauranga - have regular summertime water restrictions

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said Hamilton City Council also has regular restrictions, and as part of its agreement to give Auckland up to 25 million litres more water per day, expects Auckland to follow suit.

Rainfall, forecasts and reservoir levels would determine the severity of restrictions.

Goff said this week's easing of restrictions on businesses would be monitored closely and if the drought continued, restrictions may need to be re-imposed.

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

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