Waimea residents saved around 3 million litres of water last week, much to the pleasure of the Tasman District Council.
A council spokesman says water use was reduced by 25 per cent over the week, which equates to 3 million litres. That came on top of a 20 per cent saving the week before.
“We’re noticing people are making a real effort, whether that’s in urban or rural areas, on lifestyle blocks or businesses,” he says.
“It’s extremely heartening to see the effort a large number of people are making.”
The vast majority of food producers – farmers and growers – were operating within their consents, he says.
Some action had been taken against those people who had breached water use restrictions, with some users fined and abatement notices issued.
Anyone who was concerned that others were breaching water restrictions should contact the council, he says, but people needed to be aware that at this stage most farmers and growers were still able to access some of their water takes and just because they were using water did not mean they were operating outside their consent.
Conserving water now was all about eeking out what little there was left, he says. The more effort made now, the greater the likelihood of seeing out the water shortage before more restrictions had to be put in place.
There is a public meeting tonight (Wednesday) to provide residents with greater clarity about what the current situation is, and what measures are being put in place to deal with that.
The meeting will also outline the council’s plans for greater water restrictions for homes and businesses connected to council water supplies, should the water supply crisis facing the Waimea Plains worsen over the next few weeks.
Acting engineering services manager Dwayne Fletcher says, while the current stage four restrictions for urban and rural communities of the Waimea Plains would remain the same for now, greater restrictions were inevitable if there was no rain.
“We need to plan for that worst-case scenario because it is looking increasingly likely. We’re in the driest two-month period since records began 78 years ago and there is no significant rain forecast at this stage.”
Dwayne says the council was proposing two further restriction stages if the drought doesn’t break.
The next stage of restrictions would ban topping up community pools and require businesses connected to the reticulated network in Richmond, Hope, Brightwater, Wakefield, Mapua, Ruby Bay and their rural extensions to reduce their water use by 30 to 50 per cent. Businesses currently face a 25 per cent cut.
After that, restrictions would escalate to a complete ban on all water use except for essential household drinking water, food preparation, sanitary needs, animal welfare and firefighting.
The council would enforce a maximum household water allowance of 125 litres per person per day – half of what the average person in Tasman uses.
Dwayne says the restrictions would remain consistent across the communities of Richmond, Hope, Brightwater, Wakefield, Mapua, Ruby Bay, Redwood Valley and Eight-Eight Valley unless the source water for one area was compromised (for example, by saltwater contamination).
“If that happened, we might have to stop normal supply to people’s taps in that area and provide water from distribution points instead – but that would be an absolute last resort if we could no longer physically supply that area.”
In all other circumstances the council would continue to maintain a fully-charged pipe network so water would be available from household taps, he says.
“Obviously we are proposing some very drastic measures here and it’s only fair we provide an opportunity for the community to find out more about why we’re at this point and what we’re going to be asking of people, before any final decisions are made.
After the public meeting, the council will make a final decision about the restrictions at a meeting on Thursday.
The meeting is open to all and is being held at the New Life Church at 85 Wensley Road, Richmond, from 7pm to 9pm.