Water at record lows

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Keeping plants hydrated. . . Gore gardener Ken Youngson sets a sprinkler in place ready to turn the hose on at 7pm when Gore District Council level two water restrictions allow him to water his vegetable garden. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

High temperatures and a lack of rainfall are driving town water supplies to record lows, prompting councils to implement water restrictions.

Southland District Council has prohibited the use of unattended sprinklers and hoses as of last Wednesday while Gore District Council implemented level two restrictions for Gore and Mataura on Thursday afternoon.

This means watering grass areas is banned and only a handheld hose or bucket can be used to water flower gardens, trees or shrubs. Vegetable gardens can still be watered using any method, but only between 7am and 9am or 7pm and 9pm.

Ken Youngson, of Gore, said the restrictions had come at a good time for his vegetable garden.

“It’s not affecting me too much at all.

“It’s all the winter product you’ve got there.

“The growth of the garden has got to a stage now you’re sort of just maintaining it.”

However, it was lucky the restrictions came when they did, he said.

“If it’d been before Christmas or over Christmas, it would’ve been the time when everything’s growing and when you’re trying to keep everything ticking over.”

The council still needed to think about how to improve the situation for the future, he said.

Three Waters project engineer Aaron Green said the water level at the Jacobstown Well was at its lowest since the bore was installed in 2009.

Usage from the well was significantly higher than this time last year and water from the Mataura River was being used to recharge the well.

It was also being used to supplement Mataura’s water supply due to low levels in the Pleura Dam, though the river itself was also running low.

The Mataura River water flow was below 13 cumecs on Monday morning.

Land Air Water Aotearoa reported the river’s median flow was just over 49 cumecs.

Environment Southland said flow in the Mataura River had only been this low five times since 1970.

Three Waters manager Matt Bayliss said the water from the river was being filtered and pumped through the Hilbre Ave treatment plant, so it might taste different, but it was safe to drink.

This was despite a toxic algae alert for the Mataura River being issued by Environment Southland.

Staff were testing three times a week at the pumping site to ensure the water was free of toxins, he said.

They were also checking the river around the site for any signs of algae.

The restrictions would be reviewed from week to week, but at this stage it was uncertain when they would be lifted, Mr Bayliss said.

“We’ve put the water restrictions in place just to take a bit of pressure off our water supplies given the ongoing dry period.

“We don’t know how long it’s going to go on for but we’d expect them to be in place until there’s a decent lift in the river levels.”

There was the potential for further restrictions, but supplies were meeting demand, he said.

Southland District Council also said more stringent restrictions may be required and it would take significant rainfall across the district to reverse the current water shortage.