Saturday, May 25, 2024

Aucklanders support calls to save water as drought continues

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A survey of 500 Aucklanders has found that 97 percent of people believe it’s important to save water right now.

Watercare chief executive Raveen Jaduram says he welcomes this as a great outcome for the city at a time when the company is calling for people to urgently reduce their water use in response to the severe drought gripping the region.

Last week, the total volume of water stored in the region’s dams dropped below the halfway mark for the first time in more than 25 years. Today, the total water storage is 48 percent. This is lower than this time last year (66 percent) and well below the average for this time of year (76 percent).

Jaduram says it is heartening to know that Aucklanders understand the importance of saving water right now and the areas where we can all make good gains.

“We’ve been asking our community to think about their water use and minimise wastage of this precious resource for months now,” says Jaduram.

“This survey result shows Aucklanders have been listening and are on board with what needs to be done. But now is the time for us all to really tighten our belts and make every drop of water count.”

Jaduram’s comments come in response to an updated weather forecast from the MetService indicating the drought will persist over the coming weeks.

Last week, the total volume of water stored in the region’s dams dropped below the halfway mark for the first time in more than 25 years. Pictured is the Upper Mangatawhiri Dam; the other is the Wairoa Dam. Photo Watercare

“Since the start of the year, we’ve received less than half (47 percent) the usual rainfall in our water catchment areas so to receive yet another dry forecast is very concerning.

Jaduram says that with little rain on the way, everyone must do their bit.

“We live in a city with 1.7 million people. That means that if every person saves what they can, together we will save a lot.

“While we encourage everyone to keep washing their hands, we ask that you do not wash your cars, water blast your houses or hose your lawns.”

The survey of 500 Aucklanders asked people what they believed everyone should be doing to help the city’s water supply. The number one response was taking shorter showers – a result Watercare was hoping for as the company has been encouraging Aucklanders to take up a four-minute shower challenge.

“For most households, the shower guzzles the most water – around 27 per cent of total use. While it uses a lot of water if left unchecked, it’s also an easy place where all of us can make a big contribution to year-round water savings,” says Jaduram.

“We know that most people spend around eight minutes in the shower. If you cut back to four minutes – plenty of time, even if you wash your hair – the region will save around 80 million litres a day. That’s a phenomenal amount and it only requires a little effort by everyone.”

With the total water storage dropping below 50 per cent, Watercare has reached a trigger point whereby it can consider mandatory water restrictions. Jaduram says restrictions have not been practical so far but he acknowledges that if the rain doesn’t arrive soon, they will be implemented.

“Water restrictions are not a black and white science – several variables come into play,” he says.

“With the Covid-19 lockdown, we are very aware of the new demands everyone is facing and we do not want to add to these. We also acknowledge that it’s not possible to enforce restrictions while meeting physical distancing requirements. Instead we need everyone to keep on focussing on water savings, particularly as we move on from lockdown,” he says.

“Very positively though, Auckland’s current water usage – admittedly under lockdown conditions – is low enough that at the moment we are achieving sufficient [short term] savings through voluntary means. The challenge for the community, and for businesses, is to remain mindful of water use as we emerge from the lockdown.”

Call to action for Aucklanders:

  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Take short showers
  • Run your washing machine and dishwasher when they are full

Do not:

  • Waste water
  • Water your lawn-
  • Clean your car
  • Water blast your house.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says that, after the lowest rainfall on record in January and February, and lake levels dropping below 50 percent, the city needs to increase efforts to save water.

“Despite nine months of maximizing our draw on water from the Waikato, our lakes are 28 percent below the normal level for this time of the year,” he said.

“Saving water now means we can get through the period ahead with less severe restrictions if we have another drier than normal winter.

“Please don’t wash your cars, use water blasters or hose down the lawn during this time, and try to keep showers to under four minutes. It’s really important that everyone does their bit.”

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