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Don’t dream it’s over….

19 Mar 2020, 9:06 AM

There’s been a bit of rain, but don’t be fooled - Northland needs a lot more rain and will feel the effects of this serious drought for some time yet, the Northland Regional Council advises.

Water and Waste Manager Ali McHugh says it’s great there’s been some rain, but it’s been little more than a drop in the bucket when it comes to our river, stream, aquifer and dam levels.

“The fact is, it’s still parched out there in most of Taitokerau and the effects of this drought may continue well into next year if we continue to get below average rainfall. We’re going to have to keep thinking about water conservation through winter to lessen the impact on the region as we head into next summer,” she says.

Rain can recharge rivers and refill water tanks quite quickly, but the levels are likely to spike and fall away again quite fast because of the limited and isolated rain the region is experiencing.

“Some areas have had enough rain to at least make things look a bit better, such as green grass growing, but others such as the Far North have had only a few millimetres – certainly not enough to make even a visible difference.”

Ms McHugh says many coastal aquifers are reaching their lowest groundwater levels on record and the longer the drought goes on, the worse the situation will become. She expects the levels in some areas will keep on dropping during the next few months.

Groundwater, rainfall and other freshwater levels remain at, or close to, record lows and water restrictions are still in place throughout the region, many of them at the highest possible level where water can be taken for essential use only.

Water shortage directions limiting water use to “reasonable household domestic needs and stock welfare needs” are still in place for the entire Awanui river catchment,16 coastal areas in the Whangārei district and seven coastal areas in the Far North district.

“In these areas with water shortage directions, the limits on water use apply to people taking water from bores and springs, streams and rivers and lakes,” she explains. “We’ve put them in place to relieve the pressure on seriously low groundwater levels, which may take a very long time to recover.”

“If we don’t conserve groundwater resources now there’s a real risk that there will be water unsuitable for drinking, or even no water at all being available in some areas, particularly those with shallow aquifers,” she says.

“With every passing day, there’s an increased risk of saltwater intrusion into groundwater systems, groundwater levels dropping below pump height, or bores ‘drying up’ unless people reduce their water use.”

Ms McHugh says the council is continuing to monitor water use and will consider enforcement action against those who are found to be using water for non-essential purposes.

People who have a critical need to take water and are unclear about whether they can do so under a water shortage direction should contact the regional council on 0800 002 004.

The coastal aquifers covered by the water shortage directions in Whangārei district are:

Ngunguru, Tutukaka, Matapōuri, Whangaumu Bay, Kowharewa Bay, Church Bay, Pataua North, Pataua South, Bland Bay, Ōākura, Teal Bay, Moureeses Bay, Sandy Bay, Taiharuru Bay, Whananaki, Woolleys Bay

In Far North district:

Russell/Tapeka,Taipā, Coopers Beach/Cable Bay/Mangonui, Taupo Bay, Tauranga Bay, Matauri Bay, Te Ngaere Bay.