Rain tanks dry up as Aucklanders left waiting weeks for refills

Auckland residents using rain water tanks have been left desperate, waiting weeks on end for water as demand surges across the city.  

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Local water carriers told 1 NEWS some families have been without water for over two weeks. Source: 1 NEWS

Local water carrier Healthy Water Limited, told 1 NEWS some residents have been without water for weeks.

According to Countdown, they have seen an increase in demand for bottled water in our Whangaparaoa and Warkworth stores as people with water tanks stock up. 

New Zealand's biggest city has recorded its lowest rainfall in January since 1948, just seven per cent of the normal expected rainfall according to NIWA's latest report. 

Fire and Emergency New Zealand Principal Rural Fire Officer, Thomas Harre said in a statement, Auckland was currently experiencing its driest conditions since 2013 which had also resulted in a total fire ban. 

Water carriers around Auckland have been swamped with calls from tank users desperately needing water, with some already going weeks with an empty tank. 

"I'm not the only one with 300 customers waiting, I've got a guy out at Kaukapakapa who has stopped taking orders, he's booked out until the end of March. They're already booked for seven weeks and people just can't get water," says Garry Stevenson, owner of Healthy Water Tanks Limited. 

He says the flow rate has been reduced by two thirds at pump stations, with Watercare chaining off pumps so carriers cannot increase the pressure. 

He says it takes much longer to fill a tanker with the reduced water pressure. 

While Watercare believes only two pumps on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula currently have reduced flow rates and "should only take an extra five minutes for a tanker to be filled."

Mr Stevenson says the lack of access to water is a health concern with some residents unable to even flush the toilet. 

"I've got 120 messages on my phone for example, that I just can't get to, so the impact must be huge. From my point of view I think it comes down to health and safety, they are not able to flush toilets and this type of thing if they have no running water."

Watercare provides 11 pump stations across the region but only nine are in operation as two have closed in order to ease the strain on the water system.

Helensville pump station was closed last weekend and Wellsford was closed this morning. 

Healthy Water Tanks' Operations Manager, Abbey Fouché says with less pump stations available and low water pressure, tankers are spending more time driving between pumps resulting in less households able to be attended. 

"Now we are talking about a huge tanker driving from Silverdale over to Kaukapakapa, loaded up with water just to do one load, to then come all the way back to load up again. It's not realistic. It's extremely time consuming and a lot more expensive. I feel really, really sorry for these families." 

According to Watercare, 85 million litres of water have been supplied to water carriers through filling stations around Auckland. 

Watercare says their first priority is to provide a reliable water supply to homes and businesses connected to their water network, as well as providing enough pressure for fire fighting purposes, especially during dry conditions. 

North Shore also recorded its second lowest rainfall total since 1966, only 5 millimetres of rain falling in the first month of the year.

Ms Fouché says some families have had to resort to buying bottled water to flush toilets, showering at public swimming pools or moving in to a motel while their properties are without water.

"I've had stories of a mother who just got out of hospital with her new born baby and they had no water whatsoever and another family with three children where their four-year-old son accidentally left the hose on overnight, they didn't know until the morning. So it's not just people being complacent and not checking their tank levels. It's mistakes or circumstance."

There are 4,000 residents on the Hibiscus Coast alone who rely on water tanks according to Mr Stevenson, and says the issue has spread to all ends of the Auckland area with tankers in west and south Auckland also feeling the strain. 

By Brooke Hunter