Aucklanders on tank water urged to conserve water as refills are weeks away

Five weeks, six weeks, seven weeks.

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Parts of the city of sails haven’t been this dry since the 1940s. Source: 1 NEWS

It’s how long people in the wider Auckland region who are fast running out of tank water are now being told they’ll have to wait.

1 NEWS has been told of one company in north-west Auckland which has stopped taking clients altogether.

Some people are ringing in tears, pleading for one of life’s basics as parts of the country grapple with extremely dry conditions.

“We’ve had some really sad stories, I’ve had a mother who just got out of hospital that had a baby and they had no water whatsoever,” Abbey Fouché from Health Water Tanks told 1 NEWS in Whangaparaoa.

“Most of them are actually completely out and we’re doing our very best to prioritise but it’s a fine juggling act between who applied first, who needs it the most, if there are babies or families or children with special needs.”

“It’s a constant balance,” she said.

“We’re completely booked out until March… we’re in the early stages of February, it’s never been this bad before.”

NIWA’s climate summary for January shows one weather station recording its lowest level since 1943.

Just 7mm fell at Whenuapai as dam levels have fallen. 

At a dam in the Waitakere Ranges, the water is much lower than it should be.

“We can definitely see the exposed clay banks and the tree roots, so the normal percentage for this would be around 80 or 90 percent at this time of year and now it’s at 68.5 per cent,” Watercare hydrologist Florence Mills told 1 NEWS.

“So you can see the grass is exposed, you can see where the water level would’ve once been.”

It’s enough for officials to launch a campaign urging Aucklanders to cut their water use.

It launches on Monday, with residents being urged to limit their showers to just four minutes.

There are even timers to use in the shower.

“Last Tuesday Aucklanders used 561 million litres of water in one day,” Roseline Klein from Watercare told 1 NEWS.

“That’s the absolute record, we’ve never had such a high water use in Auckland,” she said.

Put simply, it’s because of the exceptionally dry weather combined with a soaring population.

Tanker drivers disgruntled.

Water tanker drivers say they’re facing extra hardship because of problems accessing Watercare’s filling stations.

That’s where trucks are filled before the water is delivered to customers.

“Hibiscus Coast and Silverdale has all been cut down to a third volume and flow rate, so you’re getting nine truck queues there all day which doesn’t help,” Earl Thorley from Waitakere Transport told 1 NEWS.

Another filling station has been cut off altogether, which officials say was needed to make sure systems weren’t “destabilised” while the region was using so much water.

“We do apologise for the inconvenience that people are going through, we do understand the need but we do have to manage the system to make sure that we protect those networks and systems for the bulk of the customers in urban areas,” Andrew Chin from Auckland Council told 1 NEWS.

Other drivers also busy.

Andrew Speedy is able to rely on a private water supply instead of the Watercare network, but he is just as rushed off his feet.

“It’s just chaotic out there, we’re probably about five or six weeks ahead of normal,” he told 1 NEWS.

“We can’t keep up, we’ve probably got about six weeks wait at the moment which doesn’t help anybody, so it’s only getting worse,’ he said.

Auckland Council told 1 NEWS it will start looking at to step in.

“The council is going to look at other measures to see, for those in dire need, what can we do to supply them so that they’ve got enough water for sanitation,” Andrew Chin said.

“We can expect more of this, if we start to look at the predictions that we’re getting with climate change we will get more longer dry periods and perversely more intense wetter periods as well,” he said.

What everyone wants right now, is rain.

Water supplier Abbey Fouché has a message for people while they wait.

“Please check your water levels, get on a wait list early, and plan. Conserve water, do everything you can,” she said.

Additional reporting Brooke Hunter and Andrew Hallberg.