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The gloves are off- the call for a 20% voluntary reduction in water consumption at Kaitaia has now turned to a mandatory requirement.
The level of water use has to be reduced immediately to within new parameters set by the Northland Regional Council in a water shortage directive issued today.
"This directive limits our ability to provide potable water to the community, and if conservation measures do not work, the town could be without drinking water within the next fortnight," Assets and Infrastructure General Manager David Penny said today.
"The situation really is that critical. We have to continue to work together as a community–if immediate reductions can be made then the pressure will be off, but if that doesn't happen there will be more serious consequences when the situation is reviewed by the NRC in seven days time," he said.
"So far the voluntary reduction measures have had very limited effect which indicates while some are really trying, the majority are not taking matters seriously," he said.
The directive calls for a reduction in the water take from all sources to below 2600 cubic metres a day- around 500 cubic metres per day below the current level of demand.
"To meet the directive the only choice we have is to achieve an immediate cut in the volume of water the town is using of 20% for both domestic and commercial users.
This means people must stop all discretionary use and confine their use of water to absolute essentials," he said.
One of the immediate implications was that no further water would be added to the pools at the Kaitaia Swimming Pool complex, and the pools would be closed as soon as water levels reached a point at which the filtration system was no longer operative.
To monitor water use, periodic checks would be made on metered connections across the town. If it was found to be necessary, disciplinary action would be taken. This also applied to users connected to the Opononi/Omapere water scheme.
"Rain has been forecast for later this week but it will need to be considerably more than the odd shower to get river flows back up again and the Far North out of the current crisis," he said.
"The Kaitaia and Opononi/IOmapere situations are a lesson for all communities in the Far North on the importance of water conservation and the protection of what is not an unlimited resource," he said.
Mr Penny said the drought conditions were now also impacting on some of the council's wastewater treatment plants. Wastewater schemes which discharged after treatment to rivers and streams were facing stricter conditions because of the lower flows in the receiving waters and the hot, humid conditions had encouraged toxic algae blooms in some ponds.
"For example at Kaitaia the NRC has asked us to hold discharges from the treatment ponds until further notice. We can retain the treated water in the ponds for about another 10 days, but after that there is an issue. The question is, what do we do with it when the ponds reach capacity?
"At Taipa the situation is different again because of an algae bloom. We have been holding back the discharge for the last three weeks but we have run out of storage and as of tomorrow (Wednesday) we will have to start discharging again," he said.
"Although the ponds were treated last week to kill off the algae, it is possible toxicity may still be high. As a precaution we intend to erect signs at the Aurere estuary and Parapara Road bridge, warning against swimming and shellfish gathering," he said.
Mr Penny said the situation at all treatment plants discharging to waterways would be closely monitored.