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9 January 2018

Driest summer in 46 years

Gore District Council 3 Waters staff will be closely monitoring water consumption levels for Gore over the next few days as people return home from holiday.

Level 3 water restrictions have been in place since mid-December. Continued dry weather and low river levels mean level 4 restrictions are possible in the near future.

3 Waters Asset Manager Matt Bayliss said a recent slight increase in water levels at Cooper’s Wells and a decrease in daily water usage over the Christmas/New Year break were good news.

“In the three weeks before Christmas Gore was using 3850 cubic metres of water a day. We saw it drop to 3400 cubic meters during the break.

“While this doesn’t sound a lot, it does make a difference.”

However, there was still a lot of summer left to get through.

 “We are just worried we will see a spike in water usage as people return home from holiday,” Mr Bayliss said.

He was also mindful of the huge influx of people in a few weeks for the 2018 Southern Field Days.

Environment Southland’s data confirms that Southland has had its driest year since 1971.

Southland received only 79% of the usual normal rainfall, with some areas experiencing particularly low rainfall levels.

Environment Southland director of science and information Graham Sevicke-Jones said the Clifden area received 413mm less than usual, while the Mokoreta was at a 13-year low.

“The rainfall we have had has been enough to boost the levels of the major rivers, but many areas, particularly coastal areas, continue to be very dry.”

Aquifer levels remain low but have stopped declining in parts of Northern Southland over the past fortnight. In Edendale and across lowland Southland, aquifers have continued declining to record lows. Soil moisture is low but intermittent rainfall has prevented further drying across most of Southland.

NIWA has also released information on Seasonal Climate Outlook (Jan to March 2018) which suggests temperatures are very likely to be above average, rainfall is likely to be near normal, and soil moisture levels and river flows are equally likely to be in the near normal range.

People who irrigate are reminded to check their consents and identify any triggers that will require them to make changes to their usage, so that they are informed and prepared if water levels get any lower.

Households using tank water for their drinking supply may be running low and looking to alternative sources, such as bore or stored water supplies.

“We recommend having any alternative supplies tested by a laboratory first, to ensure they meet drinking water standards,” Graham said.

Mr Bayliss said the dry weather has been reflected in exceptionally low river levels. In December the Mataura River water flow at Gore averaged 15.5cumecs.

“Last week it was as low as 12cumecs, however, a bit of rain in the headwaters provided some relief by increasing flow to 49cumecs for a short time.”

The water restrictions do not apply to commercial users, however, the Council will be asking businesses to conserve water wherever possible, Mr Bayliss said. 

The Council is classified as a commercial user and has been doing its bit since level 3 restrictions were in place with a ban on washing fleet vehicles.

Parks and Recreation Manager Ian Soper said his team will also be reviewing its operations to identify other areas where water can be conserved. 

Gore District Council 29 Bowler Avenue Gore P: 03 209 0330 E: info@goredc.govt.nz