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Looming hot, dry summer may limit water use in capital

Dec 4th, 2012 | By | Category: Editor's Picks, Latest News, News

THE COMBINATION of a hot, dry summer and one of Wellington’s storage lakes being out of action has increased the likelihood of water restrictions this summer.

 The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, NIWA, has said the seasonal outlook for the summer months is for below or near normal rainfall and river flows.

Whether the city has a difficult summer water-wise is dependent on the weather and the amount and frequency of rain, as well as on how much water is used, says Shelley Grant from the Greater Wellington Council .

“If we get a dry spring and or summer, the river levels drop and we can’t source all of our water from the rivers,” she says.

Wellington’s water is sourced mainly from the Hutt, Wainuiomata and Orongorongo rivers and the remaining 40% from the Waiwhetu Aquifer, which is fed from the Hutt River.

The storage lakes at Te Marua are used as a reserve when water cannot be taken from the Hutt River, or there is increased public demand.

One of the Stuart Macaskill water storage lakes in Te Marua will be out of action a second summer, because it is being enlarged and earthquake strengthened says Ms Grant.

“What this means is that our back-up supply is roughly halved. This limits our ability to respond to the increased demand for water we typically get during summer,” she says.

Capacity’s strategy policy analyst Paul Glennie says the likelihood of restrictions depends on how the rainfall is spread, so if Wellington goes for six days without water, consumption generally increases. 

If further restrictions are needed they are likely to be things like hosing, so people will have to use watering cans on their gardens, says Mr Glennie.

Most people on the street are making some effort to save water.

Raconteur Gwilym Breese (left) says he turns the tap off while brushing his teeth and only uses sprinklers on even numbered days.

“Water restrictions are lame,” he says.Retailer Steve Jessop (right) says water restrictions are a fact of life, and he tries to keep his taps not dripping.

“Sometimes that’s hard. I have a couple of properties I’m responsible for,” he says.

Amateur gardener Andrea Hathaway (left) says she only waters her garden irregularly.

 “I cold wash my clothes and try to have short showers,” she says.

However, she says she would rather water restrictions weren’t put in.

Café worker Grace Stewart (right) says she does not do a lot to save water. Water restrictions are something people just have to go along with, she says.

Wellingtonians can go to the Sustainability Trust for water saving advice. Sustainability officer Renee Rushton says the best free and easy ways to save water are to: 

  • Take  shorter showers
  • Only wash clothes when you have a full load
  • Mulch the garden
  • Use a watering can , not a hose in the garden
  • Water the garden at cooler times of the day
  • Install water saving devices in toilets and showers

For those willing to spend more she also suggests investing in water efficient appliances and installing rain water tanks and grey water systems.

Wellington councillor Ngaire Best says consumption has decreased since last year, but there is still scope for further reductions.

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