Auckland Council unanimously votes for mandatory water restrictions amid historic drought

Auckland Council’s Emergency Committee has today voted to introduce mandatory water restrictions as Auckland experiences what the mayor has dubbed as its worst drought on record.

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

Earlier today the committee held a vote on whether to implement the restrictions which saw councillors vote unanimously in favour. The restrictions could come into effect as of Saturday 16 May.

There is no word yet on whether there will be varied stages of water restrictions, but it is under consideration.  

Stage 1 restrictions would see the use of outdoor hoses or water blasters banned unless for a health, safety, emergency or biosecurity reason. Commercial car washes would also be banned unless done using recycled water; and the watering of sports fields would be restricted.

Restrictions at Stage 2 would be similar, but would include banning all watering of sports fields.

Despite recent rainfall around the region, the drought has caused a significant water shortage in its dams.

Mr Goff says Auckland is in a critical situation. 

“Auckland is experiencing its worst drought on record, with January to April this year the driest in our history,” says Mayor Phil Goff

“We have had a long hot summer with less than half of our normal rainfall, which means our storage dams have fallen to around 46.5 per cent, well below the 76 per cent average for this time of year.

“We're in a critical situation and unless we can reverse the decline in the lake level we will create an emergency situation. What we’re doing now is to head that off.”

Joining Mr Goff in a media conference today, Watercare CE Raveen Jaduram said the rainfall that the region has experienced is “significantly below average”, and the rain forecast isn’t looking good.

“It could start raining in the next few months but the forecast from NIWA is that the next three months is going to be average to below average rainfall.

“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... so we have to do what we can do today because that’s all we’ve got.”

Mr Goff said longer term plans to increase the region's water supply resilience in the face of the impact of climate change will be necessary.

"These include consent to draw much more water from the Waikato, measures to incentivise use of roof rainwater for gardens, consideration of upgrading water from the Māngere Treatment Plant to a potable standard, desalination and reducing water loss through leakage,” he said. 

The water restrictions can and will be enforced, but Mr Goff said the council would like Aucklanders to work with them to voluntarily save water.