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Source: Auckland Council

With further hot and dry days forecast, Auckland’s water company, Watercare, is growing increasingly concerned about the region’s skyrocketing water use.

High temperatures saw peak demand records broken three times last week as Aucklanders used colossal amounts of water― the highest volume was 568 million litres on Wednesday 19 February. The average daily use for February 2020 is higher than the peak demand record set in 2019 – 535 million litres compared with 534 million litres.

Watercare head of water value, Roseline Klein, says the extreme demand is putting pressure on the water treatment plants and networks.

“Almost all of our water treatment plants are working at maximum capacity 24/7 in order to treat and distribute water at a faster rate than its being used. This is challenging to sustain day-after-day.

“We have also changed the way we operate our treated water storage reservoirs to ensure there is more water stored in local suburbs in case of an unplanned outage at a treatment plant, for example a power outage,” she says.

“Water is precious, especially in a drought. We all need to use it wisely so that we can reduce the likelihood of formal restrictions should the dry weather continue.”

Water restrictions increase in severity over time – from using hoses with trigger nozzles in the garden initially to total hose pipe bans later on.

MetService is predicting dry weather and high temperatures for the next two weeks. The rainfall last weekend made little difference to Auckland’s total water storage, currently 65 per cent. On Saturday 22 February, 35mm fell in the Hunua Ranges catchment and 14.5mm fell in the Waitākere Ranges catchment. Much smaller amounts fell on Sunday.

“While we welcomed the rain last weekend, it wasn’t enough to end the drought. In reality, the uplift in our water storage level only lasted 18 hours because of the rate that people are using water,” says Klein.

Watercare is increasing staff at water treatment plants to ensure that any issues are identified and responded to quickly, without a loss of production. It is also maximising production at the Waikato Water Treatment Plant, which draws water from the Waikato River, in order to conserve the water in its dams.

In Wellsford, the Hoteo River level has fallen. Watercare believes it is at its lowest level since 1983, when the area experienced its worst drought on record.

“We are exploring other water sources in the area to supplement the Hoteo River, if required,” says Klein.

“We are also continuing to support rural communities and suburbs on the outskirts of Auckland by supplying water through our tanker filling stations. Since the start of the year, over 211 million litres has been provided.”

Watercare believes the hot and dry weather is causing water use to skyrocket, with people using a lot more water outside as well as showering more frequently.

“Population and industry growth are certainly factors in driving up water demand overall on an annual basis. But on a hot day – when we see a spike or peak in demand – it’s more likely to be caused by a change in behaviour. It’s when we feel the need to water our gardens and jump in the shower morning and night. The good news is that we can curb these peaks by being mindful of our water use.”

Watercare launched a ‘Water is precious’ campaign on 10 February, encouraging people to visit its Water for Life website for water wise tips.

“Sometimes people feel that their individual actions don’t make a difference. But if everyone limited their showers to four minutes a day, collectively we could save 80 million litres a day,” says Klein.

MIL OSI