Struggling coastal aquifers – essential water use only

4 Mar 2020, 10:45 AM

Many coastal communities water supplies are being restricted to essential water use only, as aquifers come under increasing pressure from the ongoing drought.

The Northland Regional Council today, Thursday March 5, issued water shortage directions for catchments covering 16 coastal areas in the Whangārei district and seven areas in the Far North district to relieve the pressure on seriously low groundwater levels. The water shortage directions impose restrictions on those taking water from bores and springs, streams and rivers and lakes.

The water shortage directions are in effect for 14 days and can be rolled-over if needed. A separate water shortage direction for the whole of the Awanui catchment has been extended for another 14 days, with a new expiry date of 16 March.

Water and Waste Manager Ali 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 coastal groundwater levels will drop significantly in the next few months, increasing the risk of saltwater intrusion into groundwater systems, groundwater levels dropping below pump height, or bores ‘drying up’.

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. If this happens, people should contact the NRC for further advice.

People need to appreciate that rain can recharge rivers and refill water tanks quite quickly, however this is not necessarily the case with groundwater systems that may take some time to recover.

The water storage directions limit water use to “reasonable household domestic needs and stock welfare needs”. Water cannot be taken for irrigation, garden watering (other than with recycled domestic water from laundries, kitchen and bathrooms), car and boat washing, water blasting and filling swimming and spa pools.

“We will be monitoring water use and will consider enforcement action against those who are found to be using water for non-essential purposes,” Ms McHugh says.

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 and 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