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Published 6/12/2023

Multi-agency emergency response planning to prepare for a water shortage

Today councils in the metropolitan Wellington region, the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO), Wellington Water and other public agencies ran an emergency planning exercise to prepare for the risk of a water shortage this summer.   

“We’re using and losing more water than ever before,” says Wellington Water Chief Executive Tonia Haskell. “The combination of increasing leaks, population growth and relatively high use in comparison to other metropolitan cities in New Zealand, means the risk of a water shortage is real – even in an average summer.”  

“We’re doing all we can at Wellington Water to respond to this year’s risk with the current funding and resources available. Add to the mix the current predictions of a dry and hot El Niño weather pattern, and we’re looking down the barrel of what could be a tricky summer.   

“So, it’s important that we are working with our councils and other agencies to be as prepared as we can be.”  

“The risk this summer is one that WREMO and councils are taking seriously,” says Jeremy Holmes, WREMO Regional Manager. “We have been engaging with Wellington Water on the situation this summer for a few months now. Today was about getting all local councils and agencies in one room to ensure all parties were clear on the risks, understand each other’s capabilities, and gain clarity on roles and responsibilities as the situation unfolds.”   

Currently the Wellington region is on Level 1, which means splitting sprinkler use between odd and even-numbered houses each day. A move up to Level 2 would see all sprinkler use being stopped and only watering gardens by hand. Level 3 is a total outdoor ban and Level 4 would see residents being asked to significantly reduce their indoor water use as well as a ban on all outdoor water use.  

“Today really emphasised that water is a valuable and finite resource. We all have a part to play. We’re calling for everyone (individual households, businesses and organisations) to make small changes now to reduce their water usage by around 40 litres per person per day (about four buckets of water, or just over two minutes in the shower) to avoid more severe water restrictions later on.  

“Today was a valuable session to form up a core emergency response group and talk through the various scenarios, the impacts on the community, and how we will work with the community to reduce the impacts. We will continue to meet on a regular basis over the next few months to monitor the situation and ensure agencies and communities are prepared to deal with this developing situation.”  

In the meantime, residents can also get prepared by storing emergency water at their place, according to the Wellington Region’s Emergency Management Office’s guidelines for emergency water.   

“Having at least 20 litres of stored emergency water per person to last seven days at home is a simple way for people to make sure there’s enough for basic day-to-day needs if we do have to go up the levels.”  

Today’s exercise was hosted by the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office and attended by:   

  • Wellington Water  

  • Porirua City Council  

  • Upper Hutt City Council  

  • Wellington City Council  

  • Hutt City Council  

  • Greater Wellington Regional Council  

  • Fire and Emergency New Zealand   

  • Police  

  • Wellington Free Ambulance  

  • Te Whatu Ora  

  • NEMA  

  • Taumata Arowai   

More details on water restrictions and what people need to do now to save water is available on Wellington Water’s website.  Those looking for more information about their household’s water use can use the water use calculator. You can also check out the levels of water use for your city here.  

Editor notes

Wellington Water is owned and fully funded by Wellington City Council, Hutt City Council, Porirua City Council, and Upper Hutt City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council and South Wairarapa District Council. All six councils are equal shareholders.

Our councils own the water infrastructure in the region, and they task us to manage the infrastructure and deliver water services to our communities.

Wellington Water is governed by a Board of Directors. The Board and our organisation receive overall leadership and direction from the Wellington Water Committee, which are also responsible for appointing members to the Board.

The Wellington Water Committee is made up of representatives from our council owners and mana whenua.

Media Enquiries

Wellington Water: 021 302 259 or

WREMO: 021 530 139 or