Tom Rowland is a Hamilton News reporter.

Water use in Hamilton still too high despite heavy rain

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The Waikato River near the Anzac Parade bridge in Hamilton on Tuesday. The water level was low but within the normal range for the time of year. Photo: Alice Rose Tiffany
The Waikato River near the Anzac Parade bridge in Hamilton on Tuesday. The water level was low but within the normal range for the time of year. Photo: Alice Rose Tiffany

Despite heavy rain expected this week, Hamilton City Council will keep the city at water restriction level two as Hamilton continues to recover from high water use during the summer holidays.

If water use increases, the council will need to consider moving to water alert three, which means hand-held hosing only.

Hamilton has been at level two restriction since late last year after an increase in November forced the council's hand.

Hamilton City Council communication adviser for city infrastructure Samantha Whittle said Hamilton briefly triggered Water Alert three warnings over the holiday period.

"With the unusually warm and dry start to the summer, Hamilton experienced higher than usual water usage. In December 2017 alone, as much as 16 per cent more water was used than at the same period last year," Ms Whittle said.

"This meant the council was required the move to water alert level two prior to Christmas. The hot, dry period, with minimal rainfall, also meant triggers for Water Alert three were met briefly, however, there was a reduction in Hamiltonians' water consumption over the Christmas and New Year period, most likely due to water alert level two messaging, as well as our people travelling out of the city to their holiday destination, which is typical for that time of year."

With holidays almost over, water use will rise as people flood back into the city.

"There are no changes to alert levels at this stage — we are continuing to operate at level two, with daily consumption and weather being monitored," she said.

The heavy rain forecast by Metservice for Hamilton and Taupo for Thursday and Friday at the time of writing could help ease concerns over the water levels.

Hamilton City Council supplies the city with water from the Waikato River which flows from Lake Taupo. The Lake Taupo catchment is where water needs to fall to help raise water levels.

The lowest recorded river level for the Waikato River was 11.52m in March of 2002.

On Sunday, the Waikato River had dropped to just over 11.55m, although a spike in the following days saw it rise to 12.35 by Tuesday.

Communication advisor for the Waikato Regional Council Wendy Valois said the river is at the expected level for this time of year.

"The water level of the Waikato River is around what we would expect for this time of the year (12m), with an increased demand for water from municipal and other water take consent holders. While the water level can fluctuate, over the past two weeks it has been generally within 300mm either side of the height indicated," Mrs Valois said.

Possibility of more water restrictions

The Waikato River near the Anzac Parade bridge in Hamilton on Tuesday. The water level was low but within the normal range for the time of year. Photo / Alice Rose Tiffany

Ms Whittle said that level two is to remind residents of Hamilton to be mindful of their water usage.

"The aim of alert level one and two is to help people be mindful about how they use the water rather than turning on a tap and forgetting about it," Ms Whittle said.

At water alert level two, residents can only use sprinklers between 6am and 8am and 6pm to 8pm on alternate days. Hand-held hoses are allowed to be used at anytime.

City council provides several tips on saving water such as using a bucket in the shower to catch water as it warms up. Then use that water to water the plants outside.

Council also recommends growing your grass a little bit longer in summer as taller grass holds water better and it will stay greener for longer. They recommend allowing the lawn to go brown, saying it won't die off completely but will spring back to life when it rains again.

Hamilton residents were in outcry on social media at hearing of the news of the continuing restrictions last week.

A commenter questioned if it was the cost of water treatment that was causing the restrictions.

"It's not a water shortage issue, we have lots of water. It's the cost for extra chemicals to treat higher water usage. If council wants to charge me more rates I'll use more water."

Another commenter said: "That reminds me, need to go and chuck the sprinklers on for the lawn,"

One referred to the heavyrain fall the week prior, saying: "There is plenty of water, it was pouring last week."

- Hamilton News

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