Northland has been tipped into one of the most severe droughts on record and there’s no quick fix for the serious situation the region is in, according to the Northland Regional Council.
While recent rain bursts over the last week have been welcome, much more will be needed this winter to get the region back on its feet say the experts.
“A dry winter in 2018 preceded by a dry year in 2019 were the perfect set-up conditions for the drought currently gripping the region,” says Northland Regional Council’s natural resources monitoring manager Jason Donaghy.
“Storms and downpours are critical for the region this coming winter because this rain will determine how Northland’s rivers and aquifer copes with the following summer.”
The council is already urging people to think ahead to next summer and give thought to storage options such as tanks and dams to protect against possible acute water shortages again next year.
Council monitoring and hydrology team reports indicate that rain through March and April has helped the region slightly, with the drought intensity dropping from extremely dry, to severely dry, along the east coast and in the Far North.
Rainfall for this year is currently tracking 40 to 47 per cent below normal levels across all the main centres in Northland. Whangarei would have about 365mm of rain “in the bank” by May each year, according to Mr Donaghy.
“The total to date is well below this at only 140mm.”
By October 2020, rainfall totals will need to be at least 750mm along the west coast of the region and about 900-1000mm along the east coast and in the Far North.
Rivers are particularly low in Bream Bay, Whangarei and some of the Far North catchments with most rivers from 80 to 90 per cent below normal flows throughout March 2020.
The Russell and Ruawai groundwater systems have begun to recover, while water levels across the small east coast aquifers are a “mixed bag”, with some recovering and others still decreasing. The Mangawhai aquifer is still declining.
Kaipara District Council currently has Level 4 water restrictions in place for Dargaville and Baylys Beach, Glinks Gully, Ruawai, Maungaturoto, and Mangawhai.
§ People who have a critical need to take water and are unclear about whether they can do so under a water shortage direction should contact the regional council on 0800 002 004.