Frequently asked questions

WHY DO WE HAVE WATER RESTRICTIONS?

In summer, we get a lot less rain than the rest of the year and on top of this, the amount of water people use increases (for example, watering gardens and filling up swimming pools). The combination of these things puts pressure on our water supply. Water restrictions help everyone play their part and are put in place to make sure there is enough water for everyone to use during this time. 

MY AREA HAS WATER METERS, WHY DO WE HAVE WATER RESTRICTIONS?

Although water is now metered in Waikato and Waipā districts, it is still really important that we conserve water.

Councils are only able to take a certain amount of water based on their resource consents. The alert levels kick in when we are using too much water and there is concern about whether or not we have enough for everyone.

If we keep our water use down, then restrictions won’t be necessary. But if it creeps back up then the alerts are a good reminder for our communities to be mindful of how much water they are using.

For more information and frequently asked questions about water meters in your area please visit 

Waipa District Council website  
Waikato District Council website

Hamilton City Council does not have residential water meters

WHAT ARE THE WATER RESTRICTIONS?

There are different levels of water restrictions in place depending on what Water Alert Level we are on. Official restrictions only relate to outdoor water use - but of course, we encourage you to be smart with water wherever you are using it!

  • Water Alert Level 1 means you can only use sprinklers between 6-8am and 6-8pm. Hand-held hosing can be used at any time.
  • Water Alert Level 2 means you can only use sprinklers between 6-8am and 6-8pm on alternate days. Hand-held hosing can be used at any time.
  • Water Alert Level 3 means you can't use sprinklers at all. Hand-held hosing only.
  • Water Alert Level 4 means you can't use any outside water systems.

DO THE WATER RESTRICTIONS APPLY TO BUSINESSES?

At Alert Levels 1 and 2 businesses and commercial customers (including schools and childcare centres) are encouraged to conserve water but are not subject to the same restrictions because they are on water meters and pay extra for their water. However, at Alert Levels 3 and 4 the restrictions also apply to businesses and commercial customers

WHAT DOES 'ALTERNATE DAYS' MEAN? WHAT IS THE 'LETTERBOX RULE'?

Alternate day sprinkling means residents whose street address number is an even number can use their sprinkler systems between 6-8am and 6-8pm on days with even dates (i.e. 30 January, 2 February, 4 February etc). 

Those with odd letter box numbers can use their sprinkler systems between 6-8am and 6-8pm on days with odd dates (i.e. 31 January, 1 February, 3 February etc).

WHAT IS A SPRINKLER?

A sprinkler is a device that ‘sprays’ water through the air. Spray irrigation systems like sprinklers can waste a lot of water to evaporation and runoff. If you are using a sprinkler, use a timer and be mindful where you position it so that you are watering plants, not paved areas. Drip line irrigation and soaker hoses are two of the best ways to water shrubs, plants and vegetables, as they water the root zone directly.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY HAND-HELD HOSING?

Hand-held hosing means that a person must be physically holding the hose. In other words, this means no unattended hoses. Always use a twist or trigger nozzle when using your hose.

HOW DO WATER RESTRICTIONS AFFECT FILLING AND USING POOLS?

Even though there are no limitations on filling up your pool at Alert Levels 1, 2 and 3, it’s important to ensure the hose doesn’t get left in the pool and forgotten about. If your property has a pool or spa there are many ways you can make them more water smart. Many of these tips apply to paddling and temporary pools too.
 
use a pool cover. A properly fitted pool cover can stop up to 97 per cent of evaporation and reduce the amount of chemicals required to treat the water
check your pool for leaks. A tiny leak can lead to a substantial amount of water loss
maintain the correct chemical balance in your pool and clean it regularly. Top up your pool with rainwater runoff
before getting into the pool, rinse your dirty feet in a small tub
when purchasing a new pool filter, look for a water efficient model. An energy efficient pump can also significantly save on energy costs. 

CAN MY KIDS STILL PLAY WITH WATER TOYS OR UNDER THE SPRINKLER?

Check out our smart water play ideas to keep your kids cool and your water use low. If your children like to play under the sprinkler, or they have toys that attach to the hose, they can use these at any time on the lawn or in a garden. Use a timer and don’t forget to turn the water off at the end. If we reach Alert Level 4 no outside water play is permitted. 

WE'VE BEEN AT WATER ALERT LEVELS 1, 2 AND 3 BEFORE, WHAT WOULD ALERT LEVEL 4 BE LIKE?

At Water Alert Level 4 only essential water use is allowed. It signifies an incredibly serious situation and applies to commercial and residential customers. 

At Level 4 the following water restrictions are in place:
•no use of outside water systems (including sprinklers, drip lines and any other irrigation systems)
•no use of hoses
•no filling or top-ups to swimming pools (including portable and paddling pools)
•no outdoor cleaning (including cars)
•no outdoor water toys (including slip and slides and toys that attach to hoses).

The only permitted way to water your garden at Alert Level 4 is to use collected rain water and/or to use greywater from inside your home.

Essential use outside means water may be used for activities like firefighting and emergency clean ups. 

Essential use inside your home means that you may use water for drinking, food preparation, hygiene and sanitary purposes only (including washing clothes and taking showers)

WHICH WATER ALERT LEVEL DID WE REACH LAST SUMMER?

Last summer, 2017-2018, Waikato District remained on Alert Level 1.  Hamilton City reached Alert Level 2 and Waipa District Council went to Alert Level 3.

HOW CAN I LEARN ABOUT USING WATER WISELY?

Visit smartwater.org.nz/tips for more ideas on how to be smart with water.

Our top tips

•always use a twist or trigger nozzle when using your hose
•use a timer with your sprinkler or irrigation system and be mindful where you position it so that you are watering plants, not paved areas
•use a cover on permanent and portable pools to prevent evaporation and use appropriate chemicals to keep the water fresh
•use a broom only to clean hard surfaces such as footpaths and driveways (except for health and safety reasons)
•wash your car/boat/caravan on an area of lawn where possible, using a bucket instead of a hose or water blaster. If available, use a commercial car wash that recycles water
•shorten your shower. Contact us for a free shower timer to make this easier*
•check out our smart water play ideas to keep your kids cool and your water use low. If your children like to play under the sprinkler, or they have toys that attach to the hose, they can use these at any time on the lawn or in a garden. Use a timer and don’t forget to turn the water off at the end
•use water from your rain water tank or grey water wherever possible.

*Hamilton City Council, Waipa District Council and Waikato District Council areas only. 

HOW CAN I USE LESS WATER IN MY GARDEN?

plant drought resistant and/or native plants that are naturally suited to our climate and require less watering
where possible, plant new plants in autumn so they have six to nine months to settle in and establish before the hot weather sets in
mulch is a layer of organic matter that covers the soil. Good quality mulch can save about 70% of water from being lost to evaporation. It also keeps the weeds down, stops runoff and adds goodness to the soil.
plan for fewer and longer watering sessions. These are more effective than lots of small, short sessions and encourage root systems to grow deeper into the soil. Every 3 – 5 days that pass without rain is enough

WHAT IS GREY WATER?

Greywater is water from bathtubs, showers, bathroom washbasins, washing machines and laundry tubs.  Watering your landscape with greywater will save drinking water resources.

Re-using greywater will also ease the strain on your septic tank (if you have one), especially during the summer months. The simplest way to re-use greywater is catching it in a large bendy bucket (the type with two handles) from your shower, washing machine and laundry sink and carrying it outside to use. 

Be sure to use eco-friendly soaps/detergents to avoid contamination or reuse the water on non-edible parts of your garden. For more information see www.smarterhomes.org.nz/smart-guides/water-and-waste/re-using-greywater/ 

WHAT IS A RAIN WATER TANK?

Rainwater is a good source of water for using on your garden. You can build your own collection tank or find a local supplier to do this for you. 
For more information see  www.smarterhomes.org.nz/smart-guides/water-and-waste/collecting-and-using-rainwater/ and www.ecomatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Build-your-own-rain-harvesting-kit.pdf

WILL WE BE FINE IF WE GET LOTS OF RAIN?

Rain in the Waikato is great for our farms, gardens, parks and local waterways however, for the region's water supply we need the rain to fall in our catchment areas - places where our water comes from originally. If rain is falling in your town, then it is good for reducing how much water people use (we see big decreases because people aren't watering their gardens or lawns). However, it doesn't mean that our water supply is topped up and that we can ignore the water restrictions. 

THERE'S LOTS OF WATER IN THE WAIKATO RIVER AND IN BORES, STREAM AND SPRINGS, SO WHY DO WE NEED WATER RESTRICTIONS?

The three Councils take water from various sources throughout the district.  The Waikato River supplies water for Hamilton City and parts of Waipā. Rivers, bores and springs are sources throughout the Waikato District and the rest of Waipā District.  

Hamilton City Council's water source and bulk supply 

Waikato District Council's water sources and bulk supply 

Waipa District Council's water sources and bulk supply 

Even though it looks like there is a lot, it is not a free for all. Councils (along with other river users) can only take a certain amount of water each year from the different water sources. These rules make sure that everyone who is taking water uses it responsibly and wisely. By putting water restrictions in place, it means there's enough water for everyone and it also protects the ecosystems that rely on the river and stream networks.

THERE'S LOTS OF WATER IN THE WAIKATO RIVER - WHY DO WE HAVE TO SAVE WATER?

The water in Waikato River flows from Lake Taupō. Even though it looks like there is a lot, it is not a free for all. Councils (along with other river users) can only take a certain amount of water each year from the River. These rules make sure that everyone who is taking water uses it responsibly and wisely. By putting water restrictions in place, it means there's enough water for everyone and it also protects the ecosystems that rely on the Waikato River.

WHY DO WE NEED TO BE CAREFUL WITH BORE OR SPRING WATER?

When lots of water is being used, the flow to springs, streams and rivers can be reduced and neighbouring bores can also be affected.  If bore levels continue to decline over a long time, it can reduce the future availability of water.  A lot of rural homes rely on bores for their water.

For springs that are connected to coastal aquifers, over-extracting water increases the risk of saltwater being drawn into the fresh water reserves. This can make the spring permanently unsuitable for drinking and many other uses (irrigation, watering etc).  Raglan is one town that uses a spring. Taking water sensibly from the bores and springs also means that we are protecting our future water supplies

HOW DO THE WATER LEVELS OF WAIKATO RIVER AND LAKE TAUPO EFFECT HOW MUCH WATER CAN BE TAKEN FROM THE RIVERS?

The river’s depth is mostly determined by the level of Lake Taupō, as it is the source of the Waikato River. When there is no rain in Lake Taupō and Waikato river catchments, water levels in the lake and river fall, which affects our ability to take water from the river.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I SEE SOMEONE WASTING WATER?

If you feel comfortable, it would be great if you could start a friendly conversation with them and explain what Water Alert Level the community is on and what that means for them and their water use. Or you can fill out the Water Concern Form on this website.

IF THERE IS A LEAK ON THE ROAD OR FOOTPATH WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Hamilton -  Report it online or call 07 838 6699

Waipa District - Report it online or call 0800 WAIPA DC (0800 924 723)

Waikato District - Report it online or call 0800 492 452.

WILL A LEAK BE FIXED STRAIGHT AWAY ONCE IT HAS BEEN REPORTED?

Not necessarily. The respective Council will assess the leak as soon as possible, but sometimes there’s a delay between the inspection and the repair. If they need to shut down the water supply to a street to complete the repair they try to let homeowners or businesses know in advance. Sometimes they have to wait for new parts, or special equipment, and sometimes they may have had to attend a higher-priority leak. 

WHY CAN A CAR WASH BUSINESS OPERATE WHEN WE HAVE WATER RESTRICTIONS?

Car wash businesses use recycled water - so they actually don't use as much as people think. This is also the same for a lot of water fountains you will see in your community.