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Auckland water restrictions: What you can and can't do while they're in place

Auckland's water restrictions have come into effect today with significant repercussions in place for anyone seen flouting the new rules.

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Sinking water levels have seen a rail track from the 1920s emerge. Source: 1 NEWS

But how did it come about? And what are the dos-and-don'ts of this water restriction.

Here's a guide on how to navigate Auckland's water situation:

How did this happen?

Auckland's dwindling water supply can be boiled down to one simple but unforeseeable issue - the weather.

First, the weather in Auckland has well and truly gone against the trend with the city just a third of its normal rainfall in April.

On a larger scale, this has also been the driest start to the year [January to May] on record for Auckland.

To put it in perspective, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research noted in February Auckland had broken a personal record after reaching its 40th consecutive day without rainfall.

"We're in a critical situation and unless we can reverse the decline in the lake level we will create an emergency situation," Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said last week.

"What we’re doing now is to head that off."

So how bad is it then?

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Mayor Phil Goff says Auckland is experiencing its worst drought on record. Source: 1 NEWS

Without rainfall, Auckland's storage lakes sit at just 44.5 per cent full which is more than 30 per cent below their usual levels.

It's not doomsday though.

Auckland won't run out of water any time soon thanks to an arrangement made back in 2002 which saw a pipeline installed which runs from the Waikato River.

That pipeline can supply around a third of the city's needs but if levels continue to fall, the dregs become harder to treat. It also means more rainfall would be needed throughout winter to refill the lakes for next year's summer.

“If we don’t do enough now and if we don’t get enough rainfall, the coming summer… I just don’t even want to think about it," Watercare CEO Raveen Jaduram said earlier this month.

"So we have to do what we can do today because that’s all we’ve got."

Enter, water restrictions

The Auckland Council's response to the situation has been the introduction of city-wide water restrictions.

Currently, there are two stages of restrictions in place. Auckland has entered Stage 1 this morning.

Stage 1 simply means people cannot use an outdoor hose or water blaster at home and commercially, the use of an outdoor hose or water blaster isn't allowed unless it is for a health, safety, emergency or biosecurity reason.

Commercial users also cannot operate a car wash unless it uses recycled water.

Sports fields, plants or paddocks cannot be watered also unless they have an irrigation system that is fitted with soil moisture or rain sensors.

The dos-and-don'ts of Stage 1

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Mitch Boocock began by opening his home to those needing a shower, then he had a bigger idea. Source: Seven Sharp

Watercare has updated what can and can't be done during their water restrictions and it may surprise some Aucklanders with activities such as washing your car or watering your garden still allowed at home - with rules.

Boiled down, Aucklanders can continue to do most activities as long as it does not use an outdoor hose or water blaster.

In the case of washing your car, a bucket of water is allowed. A hose to wash it down after isn't though.

A watering can is allowed to be used for the garden but a hose or sprinkler isn't.

Watercare is still urging Aucklanders to be responsible with those guidelines though as excessive use of water could mean tighter restrictions or Level 2 will be required. That means baths are currently allowed too but seriously not recommended.

For a full list of activities, you can read more here.

What happens if I don't follow the restrictions?

Simple - you'll be punished.

A reporting system has been set up by Watercare for anyone to use if they see excessive use of water with fines up to $20,000 on the table.

Watercare hopes it won't come down to fining people though, instead wanting co-operation like that from the 1993-4 crisis when lakes fell to 29 per cent without the Waikato River pipeline.

What happens if water supplies continue to fall regardless?

Level 2 will be enforced which will see things like sports fields sacrificed to make immediate cuts to the demand.

If it gets even worse, a third level could be added although Auckland Council has yet to give major details on what that could look like.