We are privileged to have water on tap 24 hours a day but it is not a finite resource and we can't take it for granted. Even in New Zealand we can run short of water at times due to rising population, changes in climate patterns or other factors that put pressure on supply.
Water is the life giver of all things – ko to wai ora ngā mea katoa. By using water carefully, we are protecting the health and well-being of our waterways. We are also ensuring that water is not wasted and there will be enough to go around when rain is scarce.
Water infrastructure, including treatment plants and pipes, is expensive. Reducing the amount of water that we use reduces the pressure on our existing infrastructure and can prevent or delay increased investment in new infrastructure. Using less water also reduces the amount of energy needed to provide clean safe water and to treat waste water.
Building a treatment plant just to cater for three months of the year when more water is needed for lawns and swimming pools is not sustainable and would cost rate payers millions of dollars.
A planned upgrade to the Hamilton's Water Treatment Plant is currently underway as part of the Long Term Plan. Scheduled to be completed by December 2023, this will increase the city’s capacity to treat water and cater for the needs of a growing city.
Recently a major upgrade has been completed for Te Awamutu, Pukerimu and Kihikihi areas with additional water being drawn from the Waikato River.
Council provides & maintains public gardens, parks and flower plantings for the benefit of all. When sprinklers are used, water efficient practices are used where possible including timers, soil moisture meters and mulch.
Sports grounds and stadium are watered during restrictions to maintain as much grass cover as possible and help prevent fields from turning into dust bowls. Wetting agents are also used to help retain water. This allows the sports fields to be used in summer for cricket and touch but also helps ensure there is good grass coverage before the next winter season. Without adequate grass coverage, fields quickly turn to mud.
Note: Sports grounds in Waipā are leased, and are the responsibility of the leasee to maintain, following the water alert guidelines
There are a number of factors that are taken into consideration to determine when Water Alert Levels are needed including current water use & comparison to historical trends; long term weather forecasts and recent rainfall data, Lake Taupō level (which influences the level in the Waikato River), stream levels; operational status of the water supply (faults, maintenance, processing ability) and changes to the quality of the water source (contamination or algal bloom which can effect processing rates). Councils (along with other river & stream users) have an obligation to ensure that any water taken is used responsibly and wisely. The Water Alert Level system is one tool to assist in achieving this.
The Water Alert Levels are a system of escalating water conservation measures with a focus on outdoor water use. In summer, a large proportion of water is used to water gardens and lawns, fill swimming pools, clean houses and vehicles etc. The Water Alert Levels particularly at Alert Level 1 and 2 do not prevent these activities but help the community to be mindful of how water is being used and provide guidance on using water in a sustainable way.
From Hamilton and parts of Waipā, your water comes from rainfall in the mountains around Lake Taupō. Water flows into the mighty Waikato River bringing life-giving sustenance to the region.
Waipā also relies on local rainfall to feed Mangauika Stream and to supply bore water (water seeps through the soil filling aquifers deep underground).
Waitomo District relies on local rainfall to feed Mangaokewa Stream for Te Kuiti; a surface and underground stream for Piopio and a spring for Mokau.
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 can put pressure on our water supply. Water alert levels are put in place to help everyone play their part and ensure our precious water resource is being used responsibly and wisely so there is enough water for all.
Although water is now metered in Waipā District, it is still really important that we conserve water.
Councils (along with other river users) can only take a certain amount of water each year from their water sources and they all have an obligation to ensure that any water taken is used responsibly and wisely. By putting water alerts in place, it means there's enough water for everyone and it also protects the ecosystems that rely on the Waikato River.
Water supply is put under pressure during the summer as demand increases but there is less rain to top up water sources. Water Alert Levels help everyone play their part and ensure there is enough water for essentials like drinking and washing.
For more information and frequently asked questions about water meters in your area please visit
Hamilton City Council and Waitomo District Council do not have residential water meters.
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 6am-8am and 6pm-8pm.
Hand-held hosing can be used at any time.
Water Alert Level 2 means you can only use sprinklers between 6am-8am and 6pm-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.
At Water Alert Levels 1 and 2, water restrictions apply to businesses who don’t use water as an essential activity. For example, if you wish to water a shrub or garden outside your premises, you can only use a sprinkler during the restricted times.
At Water Alert Level 3, outdoor sprinkler use is restricted. However, if your business uses a sprinkler or irrigation system as an essential activity such as landscaping, sports fields or nurseries, you may do so only with efficient watering methods.
Efficient watering methods:
Alternate day sprinkling means residents whose street address number is an even number can use their sprinkler systems between 6am-8am and 6pm-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 6am-8am and 6pm-8pm on days with odd dates (i.e. 31 January, 1 February, 3 February etc).
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. During restrictions, please only use irrigation systems during restricted watering hours.
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.
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.
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.
There would be no outside non-essential water use by domestic, commercial and non-residential water users. This means no hoses, sprinklers, irrigation systems can be used unless it's essential. Alert level 4 would require a significant reduction in our communities water use.
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 the Smarter Homes website.
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 visit the rainwater harvesting page.
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. Hamilton and Cambridge catchment areas are Lake Taupo. Te Awamutu, Pirongia, Kaipaki, Ohaupo and surrounds catchment area is Pirongia area. Kihikihi catchment is the local area. 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.
The three councils take water from various sources throughout the district. The Waikato River supplies water for Hamilton City and parts of Waipā. Waipā also sources water from a bore in Kihikihi and from a stream on Mt. Pirongia. Waitomo District has streams in Te Kuiti and Piopio and a spring in Mokau.
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 and they all have an obligation to ensure that any water taken is used responsibly and wisely. By putting water alerts in place, it means we need to maintain enough water for everyone and it also protects the ecosystems that rely on the river and stream networks.
The water in the Waikato River flows from Lake Taupō. Even though it looks like there is a lot of water, 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 and they all have an obligation to ensure that any water taken is used responsibly and wisely. By putting water alerts in place, it means there's enough water for everyone and it also protects the ecosystems that rely on the Waikato River.
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). Taking water sensibly from the bores and springs also means that we are protecting our future water supplies.
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 the Lake Taupō and Waikato River catchments, water levels in the lake and river fall, which impacts our ability to take water from the river.
If you feel comfortable, have a friendly chat and let your neighbour know about water alert levels and what level is active.
Water wasters are educated on water alert levels and what they mean. Where water is being repeatedly wasted, offenders can have their water supply restricted or can even be prosecuted in serious cases.
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.
Water restrictions apply to sprinkler use at Alert Levels 1-3. Car wash businesses do not use sprinklers so restrictions would not apply.
At Alert Level 4 when no use of outside water systems are allowed, a car wash business would need to cease operating if using council-supplied water until restrictions eased to Alert Level 3.
If a car wash business has its own water supply that is not supplied by council, they can operate as normal.