Tauranga water supply hits record low

Tautau Stream in Tauranga supplies 50 per cent of the city's water. Pictured in January 2020. Photos: Supplied

Tauranga's water supply has hit a record low with water usage rising 14.3 million litres above the daily average.

The repercussions could see a complete ban on hoses, on top of already tight restrictions forbidding residents to wash cars, houses or boats with a hose - using a bucket instead.

With long hot days over the holiday period and little rain in sight, Tauranga is facing a water shortage like never before.

Tauranga City Council water services manager Peter Bahrs says the city is rapidly reaching the 30 per cent spike in water use seen over summer, despite being one month into the season.

And, he says the three previous hot summers have already left the city's aquifers dribbling.

"The challenge that we've had is that in 2020, for the first time, we saw our source water stream flows dropping.

"As a result, we kept the water restrictions in for a longer period but unfortunately our streams haven't recovered over the winter and we started going into summer with our source water streams at a low ebb."

Tautau Stream pictured in March 2021.

In November last year, Tauranga City Council introduced a Water Watchers Plan replacing traditional outdoor watering restrictions with a year-round strategy to help maintain the city's water supply.

Bahrs says from December to March sprinklers were banned completely, but handheld hoses with a trigger nozzle were allowed for a one hour maximum between 7pm and 10pm.

"The reason we are embarking on this strategy is to avoid the Auckland situation. We believe it will reduce the demand sufficiently to allow normal usage within the constraints of the restrictions."

However, Bahrs says if people do not follow the plan and stream levels become critical, he will have to introduce tougher restrictions.

Recent rain prior to Christmas might make residents hopeful, however, Bahrs says it will not be helping the supply immediately.

"The streams are fed from groundwater and the aquifers need to recharge.

"Clearly the past three very dry, hot summers have created the issue for us. We have to wait for that rainfall to charge up the groundwater and get back into the stream."

Bay of Plenty Regional Council water shortage events manager Steve Pickles says across the region, stream flows are low.

He says it's not an issue ever seen before early 2020.

"The rain that falls today shows up as the spring flow in about a year or two.

"We are in the middle of a period of dry weather, the effects on those streams therefore, could last for another year or two even if we get good rainfall over the next 12 months or so."

Pickles says the water shortage could be a result of a normal cycle of weather, which lasts anywhere from seven to 10 years.

He says the region could be in a dry period of one of those cycles.

"It also could be an indication of what climate change may in fact bring us where we have long, dry and warmer periods interspersed with some sort of heavier rainfall.

"So although we may get a similar annual rainfall sort of volume, that may be coming in shorter, sharper bursts, which do have an impact on recharging our groundwater and keeping those streams flowing at a good rate."

Margaret of Tauranga South Garden Club says there are many ways to conserve water over the summer period that did not require a hose, or sprinkler.

"There are lots of diverters you can buy for your downpipes so you can collect it when it does rain.

"Do your dishes in a bowl and then throw that on your vegetable garden, brilliant."

She says it's not hard to be conscious of water once you got into practice.

"People do waste a lot of water, they don't think about it. They turn the tap on and run it while brushing their teeth or rinsing a cup that doesn't really need to be rinsed.

"There are a lot of things that people can do that they don't at the moment."

Tauranga City Council is building a new water intake and treatment plant alongside the Waiāri Stream, near Te Puke, which is expected to be ready by the end of 2022.

-RNZ/Leah Tebbutt.

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@ portland

Posted on 13-01-2022 09:43 | By Kancho

Indeed this has been obvious for years and council had little proactive measures. The new water plant not due until the end of the year I suspect will already be insufficient. No sign of trying to hurry it up. More water sources already underway ? I would love to install water tanks but pricing is in the thousands. A rate rebate would encourage me but it is so much easier on a new build cost and design wise.

Change in attitude

Posted on 12-01-2022 22:23 | By

This water shortage has been getting worse every year, to many new housing developments to many swimming pools been built and you wonder why water shortage. We need to sort our infrastructure like declination plants sea water to fresh water. Australia can teach us a few things about water conservation most states have banned swimming pools they also have been pro active for many years on water saving measures, it makes me laugh we are getting advice from the council how to reduce our water requirements this year what a joke. I saw this water problem 3 years ago, so I have installed my own water tanks which gives me about 5 months of water for my gardens and outdoor shower and washing water. Give tax breaks to house holds to install their own water tanks to future proof their homes for the future!

@ Kancho

Posted on 11-01-2022 23:13 | By

That’s a REALLY great comment that makes perfect sense. I totally agree with you. We have a neighbor that has a very large pool and whenever it green’s up, which is at least once a month (totally due to laziness) they empty it and refill it. Refilling takes a good day and a half. An excessive use penalty makes perfect sense.


Posted on 11-01-2022 20:26 | By The Caveman

But I as a resident pay for my water that the Council SELLS me. Bottom line is if the Council want to CHARGE me for my water use, then I expect that they can MEET my water requirements - YEAR ROUND !! If they cannot then its NOT my problem ! I have a large vegie garden that I live off as do a lot of my friends that I supply !!! Yes I have water tanks off the roof that I use, BUT when they run out - the COUNCIL will provide the water to my garden - its pate of my RATES contract with the Council - AND I will use whatever is necessary to keep my community garden alive. The TCC needs to get its finger OUT of its B _ _ M and get the supply sorted !!


Posted on 11-01-2022 16:21 | By Kancho

Perhaps as we have water metres then if any property has excessive use then above a certain level a hefty price increase. Seems to me while I’m using washing up water, a bucket in the shower and saving up laundry etc ...yet others couldn’t give a stuff. Some people have huge water bills and obviously don’t care . In that case charge them more. I have spent a lot on solar power and water tanks will cost as much if not more . New houses could be plumbed to collect water much easier

Councillors watering city parks with buckets? That's a hilarious thought!

Posted on 11-01-2022 12:08 | By

I agree with ’Let’s get real’ The moment TCC practices what they preach, maybe, just maybe Tauranga ratepayers will will follow suit! I am a family of four that has the water consumption of a family of three. I recycle my last rinse from my washing machine which I pump into a garden tank which waters my vegetable garden. I turn the water off when I brush my teeth, yet I look out my window to see the neighbor topping up his swimming pool. I will not be restricted anymore, payer users, and I will not feel guilty for when I do need to use! Once again we pay for the service, and now you can’t supply. Maybe one day we will vote in a decent council that might just listen to the people of Tauranga..... Dreams are free, never gonna happen! :(


Posted on 11-01-2022 08:53 | By Kaimai

Is this the Annual Summer Water Shortage, or a different one.


Posted on 11-01-2022 03:37 | By old trucker

TCC are letting people fill up huge swimming pools,only to be let out over winter,we have meters (which we never wanted but got ) so whats the problem we only pay for what we use,all the car yards washing cars everyday get the point,my thoughts only on this, Sunlive is No1 for News, Thankyou 10-4 out,phew.


Posted on 10-01-2022 16:28 | By

Personally, I try my best to keep within the guidelines to keep my garden alive. But I consider this water usage as a gesture of contempt by ratepayers for the TCC. A simple case of "If you don’t listen to me, why should I listen to you?"

Tears of incompatence

Posted on 10-01-2022 15:43 | By

So ratepayers etc pay for our water which is free from the heavens and underground glaciers. We are not allowed to use much of it because then the council can’t water all there about all these water bottling company’s that bottle our water and ship it overseas?? Millions of liters of it!!. I bet ya there’s no restrictions on them.. money talks bull#*^t walks.. come on really are we all that blind and dumb to believe these tears of so called local led government??

No surprises

Posted on 10-01-2022 14:23 | By Kancho

Growth has outstripped water supply. So this is the lauded Smartgrowth working all these years . Funny one of the commissioners claim to fame to be selected by Mahuta was been chairman of Smartgrowth for Tauranga . So this has been a train coming down the track at least 15 years. No storage in a dam or artificial lake so drought conditions affect us. Comparison with Auckland that has storage and massive infrastructure and also took seven years battling with the Waikato and iwi to get water urgently yeah right.


Posted on 10-01-2022 14:00 | By

The day I see council contractors watering the parks, reserves, golf courses, horse racing arena, roundabouts etc with a bucket, I will concede that is an issue outside of their control. Leading by example would be a strong start to winning over ratepayers... Millions of litres to grow grass.?


Posted on 10-01-2022 13:10 | By

Of course the daily average usage goes up, there’s no point in treating ratepayers like dummies. We all know that council made a mistake in stopping work on the Waiari water supply and of course they are still trying to tempt Aucklanders to come down here so there is extra pressure on the supply streams. Obviously once we have a new museum all our problems will be solved.

Full story please

Posted on 10-01-2022 13:07 | By First Responder

The Waiari water scheme began with consent preparation back in 2007. The scheme was put on hold 2012 to 2015, apparently due to decreased water demand. Due to the short sighted council, they now can’t meet current demand. Get on and sort this city’s infrastructure out. Any one with half a brain can see we’re been mucked around by a bunch of incompetent geriatrics. Just like the Pukemapu Bridge in Oropi they don’t want to double lane. Instead they buy houses in Rowesdale, with the intent of demolishing, so the can gain access to land for more houses, instead of planning ahead, and widening the bridge, which will have to be done one day. Muppets.

We Are Suffering

Posted on 10-01-2022 13:03 | By

Now because of past and continual mismanagement. The flow on effect from build, build, build without accountability for water etc is squarely on the shoulders of TCC. We had no money to do the job is no excuse because when will you. The job will just get more and more expensive and the ratepayers and others will suffer in many ways. TCC needs to see what everyone else can see but they refuse to. Frivolous spending by wannabes on wanna haves is mismanagement of our money. Why was money wasted putting up Christmas decorations in a ghost town? Small example but frivolous spending. There is light at the end of the tunnel but it’s a very long, long tunnel.


Posted on 10-01-2022 12:47 | By earlybird

the developers want to build how many more houses?

Wet, wet, wet.

Posted on 10-01-2022 12:06 | By morepork

Margaret is right; we do take water for granted and it is wasted even though we now have to pay for it. I stayed overnight at a hostel in Greece many years ago and was surprised when the little old lady who ran it started screaming and yelling when she caught me brushing my teeth with the tap running. Years later I lived on a yacht, and you immediately become aware of water and not wasting it. Most Kiwis are just not aware... In a worst case scenario, the aquifers COULD simply dry up and all the plans and theories won’t get us water. For around $NZ90 million we could have a desalinization plant that would meet ALL of the normal requirements for Tauranga, indefinitely. Combined with existing aquifers, it would cater for the projected growth of the area for the next 75 years. AND it could be solar-powered.