The Maitai Dam is at its lowest level in 15 years. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Severe water restrictions loom


Nelson is looking “down the barrel” of severe water restrictions as city faces lowest water levels in 15 years.

The Maitai Dam, which provides the bulk of Nelson’s water supply, is currently at 170.89m and is now 3m below its full level.

In April 2006, it reached a level of 170.45m above sea level, the lowest since monitoring this way began in 2004.

“We are looking down the barrel of the next level of restrictions to come into play soon, if we don’t get rain,” says councillor Stuart Walker.

Nelson is currently on stage two water restrictions which places a total ban on sprinklers except for areas of high-value such as bowling greens, golf courses, cricket pitches and public gardens.

“Essentially these are areas that will take months or years and potentially many thousands of dollars to reinstate,” says Nelson City Council acting group manager infrastructure Marg Parfitt.

A briefing to Nelson City Councillors on Tuesday morning showed that stage three will likely be implemented as early as the beginning of next week if significant rain doesn’t come this weekend which will mean a total hosing ban on all residential properties.

Nelson has 19,032 residential connections who use on average 272 litres each per day, more than 5 million litres a day in total.

Residents and businesses are urged to comply with water restrictions now to protect the long-term water supply.

“There is a genuine need to conserve as much water as we can, it may not be the most desirable thing for people to cut back but it’s a matter of prudence at this point,” says Stuart.

Nelson is in stage two water restrictions which places a total ban on sprinklers.

After a post on a social media page accused Nelson Coachlines of wasting water by water blasting the pavement outside the bus station, a spokesperson says they are doing everything they can to conserve water.

“We are well aware of the stage two restrictions, but it becomes a health and safety issue.”

Nelson City Council say that with no significant rainfall, there is a need to impose water restrictions now to protect the long-term water supply for essential use.

Stuart Walker says that “it’s a balancing act” when it comes to implementing water restrictions.

“We are extremely mindful of the entire region, you have TDC who are in absolute crisis, particularly until crops are harvested.”

Tasman businesses are being told they must cut their water use by 25 per cent, due to a looming critical water shortage.

Water permit holders in most Waimea zones have had their takes cut by 65 per cent.

Councillor Gaile Noonan says the message to conserve is not getting through.

“I don’t think the message is getting out, I see people still hosing their cars, it’s not working.”

Mayor Rachel Reese says the water crisis affects us all, not just Tasman.

“This affects all of us, many of our residents work in Tasman and vice versa, there’s an interest in all of us getting behind a water conservation effort.”