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Published 19/11/2015

Water Committee seeks regional approach to watering restrictions

The Wellington Water Committee has recommended a review be carried out of the watering restrictions that are enforced in the four cities of Porirua, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt and Wellington.

Watering restrictions are used every summer to help manage demand that can jump by as much as 25 per cent or more at the very time of year when the region's rivers are running low. Keeping peak demand down pushes out costly investment in more water storage, saving the region millions of dollars.

David Bassett, who chairs the Committee made up of a representative from each city council and the Greater Wellington Regional Council, said it made sense to have a uniform approach to this important aspect of community education.

"Having common messages, and taking a regional approach to this issue, will make sure we're all working together to save water, and money,” Mr Bassett said. “Matching the restrictions in place with the actual need will also mean the public are much more likely to support them.

“Water demand has been decreasing over the past few years, but with an El Nino forecast for this summer, we’ll need everyone to be particularly aware of what’s happening with the water supply.”

The council-owned company Wellington Water, which the Water Committee oversees, will carry out the watering restrictions review with the aim of implementing any changes next (2016/17) summer.

At its meeting last week, the committee also agreed to extend the term of Wellington Water’s board chairman, John Strahl, a further two years.

“John has provided steady guidance as Wellington Water has transitioned from two organisations to one, and from an operational focus to a strategic thinking, regional water service management company,” Mr Bassett said.

Mr Strahl was a board member of Wellington Water’s antecedent company, Capacity, for five years, and has been chair of Wellington Water since its inception.

“The Committee felt it would be far more valuable to retain John’s experience in this sector as Wellington Water continues to evolve over the coming 18-24 months,” Mr Bassett said.

Watering restriction facts:

  • Basic garden watering restrictions are the odds-and-evens alternate day system, where householders can use a sprinkler or garden watering system, between 6-8am and 7-9pm, according to their street number and the date
  • In Upper Hutt, the alternate day system is based on the day of the week, not the date
  • In three cities, watering restrictions come into effect with daylight saving. In Upper Hutt, they are in place year-round
  • A sprinkler can use as much water in an hour as a family of four does during an average winter's day (1,000 litres)
  • Surveys carried out show awareness of watering restriction times and dates is highest in Upper Hutt of all four cities
  • During long dry summers, restrictions can be escalated to include a ban on the use of sprinklers or watering systems
  • If demand continues to climb, a ban on all outdoor water use can be imposed. The last time this happened was in the summer of 2013/14
  • A strong El Niño system is forecast for this summer. This indicates dry weather for the east coast of the country, but the impact on the Wellington region's catchments is uncertain

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