The severe drought in North Island, New Zealand-- the worst in 50 years in some areas-- has prompted the Auckland Council's Emergency Committee to introduce mandatory water restrictions, which will be effective across the region beginning May 16, 2020.
This year's dry spell has hit hard and wide, according to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) meteorologist, Ben Noll. NIWA's figures show that the areas of Whangarei, Whitianga, Hamilton, Tauranga, Whakatane, Napier, Taupo, and Auckland have had their driest January to April on record.
In response to the worsening drought, the Auckland Council's Emergency Committee voted unanimously on Thursday, May 7, to introduce mandatory water restrictions to take effect across the region next week.
"We really need Aucklanders to come together and reduce the amount of water we are using. As a city, we have done a good job to date, but given we have only had 36 percent of our usual rainfall we need to do more," said mayor Phil Goff.
"The last month has shown that if we put our mind to it, we can make the changes we need to help our city and that is what I am asking for of Aucklanders now with these water restrictions."
He continued, "The first stage of restrictions will ban the use of outdoor hoses and water-blasters. It will also prohibit the watering of sports fields, plants, or paddocks unless an irrigation system is fitted with soil moisture or rain sensors, and require car washes to operate only if they use recyclable water."
Goff reminded Auckland citizens that if they don't save water, the council will have to implement stricter restrictions in the future.
"I hope Aucklanders will understand the need to adhere to these measures, but if we have to, we have a range of enforcement options available for those who choose to ignore the restrictions."
The proposed restrictions cover outdoor water use as it can be observed, but none of the three stages impose restrictions on drinking water or sanitary use of water in households, as well as operations that use water for emergency, health, and biosecurity measures.
'Stage 1' will forbid the residential use of water-blasters and outdoor hoses. This is set to be implemented from May 16. 'Stage 2' will be introduced if the water storage levels in the city continue to decline to a level agreed in Watercare's Metropolitan Drought. In this stage, all watering of sports fields will also be included.
"I’m confident that Aucklanders will understand how important it is to adhere to these restrictions," said Waitakere councilor Linda Cooper, the liaison councilor for Watercare. "This drought is something that affects everyone, and we all have a role to play in helping to save water."
Watercare chief executive Raveen Jaduram said that they are hoping to see the community abiding once the mandatory restrictions for outdoor use of water are introduced.
Meanwhile, all of Northland is also under mandatory water restrictions, with all of Kaipara, the Far North towns of Kaitaia, Rawene, Kaikohe, and Kawakawa, as well as 23 coastal communities, under strict restrictions.
The Ministry of Social Development has given about 681 000 dollars to thousands of New Zealanders in water tank refill payments since the beginning of the year. The biggest number of clients are in Northland with 747, where the average refill costs were also highest. 621 clients are in Auckland, 81 in Waikato, and 263 across the rest of the country.
Featured image credit: Watercare Services