Residents in Wellington queued for hours today to get their hands on large storage tanks amid a worsening water shortage in the capital, which could see water restrictions tightened further.
A large queue in the Wellington tip shop car park began around 8am as demand for the 200-litre water tanks surged.
Wellington Water regulatory services director Charles Barker said the current rate of water loss is higher than it’s been in the past and there’s a greater chance of tougher water restrictions this year.
“We’re monitoring the situation very closely and our management team is meeting weekly to assess where things are at in terms of all the different components and factors that would influence a potential water shortage,” Barker said.
Newshub reported there are around 3000 water leaks across the city.
“We shouldn’t kid ourselves, that’s a significant amount of leaks and it’s reflective in our high level of leakage,” he said.
He said the cause of the potential water shortage could be anything from the weather to how the network was operating.
On the Wellington Water website, there were four unscheduled water outages in the region today which have since been resolved.
The Wellington metropolitan area remains in a water alert level 1 restriction, meaning people could only use sprinklers and irrigation systems every other day.
However, Wellington Water announced on Saturday that South Wairarapa had moved into a level 2 restriction, meaning a ban on sprinklers and irrigation systems for residential households.
“Wellington Water has recommended that level 2 water restrictions are put in place now to help us reduce water demand and reduce the risk of having more severe, longer water restrictions later on,” said Stefan Corbett, South Wairarapa District Council’s group manager of partnerships and operations.
The Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) also announced today that water restrictions were being implemented in several locations around the region.
Water alert level 1 restrictions are in effect for Arrowtown, Arthurs Point, Frankton, Hanley’s Farm, Hāwea, Kelvin Heights, Lake Hayes, Luggate, Quail Rise and Wānaka.
These restrictions require residents and visitors to keep hand-held hosing to a minimum at all times, and to only use irrigation sprinklers between midnight and 6am when general demand is at its lowest.
“We know this may be an inconvenience to lovely lawns or growing gardens at home, but water is being drawn from reservoirs faster than we can replace it throughout the district,” the QLDC posted on Facebook.
“By taking a few simple steps now we can all help ensure our water network remains in good shape, especially with more hot and dry weather forecast to come.”
The water shortages come after New Zealand recorded its hottest day of the 2023/24 summer to date yesterday, with Canterbury reaching a sweltering 34.6C.
Forecasters warned it could just be the beginning, with more sweltering days likely this week.
“It’s going to be hot – straight up,” meteorologist Chris Brandolino told the Herald.
RNZ reported that heat alerts have been issued for the lower North Island for Wednesday.
The alerts affect Wellington City, Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt, with the latter expected to be the warmest location, with a maximum temperature of 29 degrees.
MetService issues such alerts when temperatures are set to reach levels that are unusually hot for that location. It is warning of “incredibly warm” and muggy conditions overnight into Wednesday across much of the country.
Benjamin Plummer is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He has worked for the Herald since 2022.