Warmer, drier, windier summer for Northland

20 Dec 2023, 1:42 PM

Locals and visitors to the region are being advised summer in Northland looks set to be warmer, drier and windier than normal and they should use water carefully, especially in areas without town water supply.

Northland has no current water shortage concerns and after a wet year, the region has started summer with close to normal levels of rainfall, its river flows and groundwater are above normal for this time of year and soil moisture is above normal to normal.

However, Colin Dall, Group Manager Regulatory Services for the Northland Regional Council, says forecasters have confirmed there’s now close to a 100 percent chance El Niño conditions will likely continue through the remainder of summer and an 85% chance they will persist through Autumn.

El Niño brings an expectation of cooler sea surface temperatures and stronger and more frequent westerly winds during summer. “This creates an elevated risk of drier than normal conditions in east coast areas.”

Mr Dall says there is now moderate risk of ‘meteorological drought’ (low rainfall) over the next three months, with temperatures forecast to be above average over that period. There is also a moderate risk for extended dry periods in the medium term (4-6 months) and “if these eventuate Northland will likely experience some level of hydrological drought”.

“The occurrence and length of any forecasted extended dry periods will largely control the occurrence, severity, length, and impact of any possible drought and council will continue to monitor and assess the situation as the information becomes available.”

Mr Dall says of particular concern, should the region experience extended dry periods, are those areas that are not on public water supply, “especially those communities which receive an influx of visitors over summer”.

“Thanks to a wet year, our soil and river levels are looking good and at this stage we’re not predicting a significant drought.” “However, we’ll be reviewing the conditions regularly and keep the public and other stakeholders updated should the outlook change.”

Mr Dall says in the meantime, the best thing people can do is to be prepared.

“Make sure you check for any leaks, keep an eye on your water tank levels and think about booking in water deliveries in plenty of time if required.”

He says everyone should be mindful of conserving water over the summer months, including those visiting Northland over this period.

People should be thinking ‘is this water use necessary?’.

“Watering lawns to keep them green or regularly washing vehicles aren’t necessities and stopping them are easy and obvious ways to conserve water.”

Mr Dall says there are plenty of ways people can save water and these can be found at bewaterwise.org.nz/#tips

He says the weather conditions are a far cry from those in early 2020, when Northland experienced one of the most severe droughts on record due to record low rainfall levels in 2019 and a dry summer in 2019/20.

“That drought had significant impacts on water suppliers, farmers, horticultural operations, industries, government facilities, and communities which rely on rainfall for water supplies.”