News | 17 January 2024
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What we’re doing to save water across Council’s green spaces

Water use in Pōneke is at an all-time high. With leaky pipes, forecast El Niño conditions, a growing population and a higher amount of water usage compared to other parts of the country, we’re losing more water than ever before. This impacts not only our residents and businesses, but the green spaces we use in the city.

View of the gardens at the Wellington Botanic Garden ki paekākā.

The Wellington region has moved to level 2 water restrictions, which means that no residential sprinklers or irrigation systems can be used. However, commercial use is still permitted at level 2, providing appropriate care is taken.

Our Parks, Sport and Recreation team manages 58 sites across the city that rely on these systems to keep them in good nick for Wellingtonians to use.

After dealing with drought conditions over the years, the team are prepared to adjust to the restrictions as they increase by shortening the frequency of watering these green spaces, which includes 18 irrigated lawn areas, 21 irrigated sports fields, 17 clay cricket blocks, 2 croquet greens and a golf course. There are also rain sensors on selected irrigation controllers which will override and stop automatic watering if it is raining.

As restrictions increase, the number of days that watering will occur will be limited and only use the amount of water necessary to keep the grass alive and usable, says Sports fields Team Manager Gus Anderson.

“If we stopped watering our sports fields, all traditional sports would be impacted with limited availability of safe playing surfaces for the summer and winter seasons. Work to replace the grass wouldn’t start until restrictions are lifted and weather conditions are right to carry out renovations.”

Wellington City Council Operations Manager William Melville says that it’s a fine line between restricting water use and preserving the grass at sports fields and event spaces so they can still be used across summer and into winter.

“We can’t simply turn off irrigation, because if the grass dies we’d be staring down the barrel of a hefty renovation fee to remove the dead grass, reseed, water, and fertilise the space for regeneration. That’s over $1,000,000 worth of renovation.”

A plant in a pot with a ruler behind it.
One of the rare species, Pachycladon fasciarium, held in the Ōtari-Wilton's Bush. Photo credit: Dr Karin van Der Walt.

Alongside the restrictions on sports fields, Council will stop using irrigation on its bedding displays, green walls, and collections in the Botanic Gardens. 

Wellington Gardens Manager David Sole says that the team are keeping a careful eye on their water usage while still protecting rare and threatened plant species. 

“Our staff have been asked to be careful about how and where they use water and to regularly check the systems for overspray and leakage. There will be some hand watering of newly planted trees which is essential for their long-term establishment. If there’s low rainfall, we may lose floral displays, plants in planter boxes, and green walls across the city and we’ll be considering planting more drought tolerant species over the winter months.

“Our Gardens are also home to very rare and threatened plants, especially some of the native species, which could set back their recovery to the wild by years or may even be lost forever if we don’t keep them watered. The nationally critical Pimelia actea is from only one small population that remains known in the wild and in the Botanic Garden the Kaikomāko Manawa Tawhi Pennantia baylisiana of which there is only a single plant remaining in the wild."

Council will also be turning off two water features in Queens Park, Thorndon that rely on mains water. 

Water features that use reticulated water (ones that don’t need additional water added daily) — like the Bucket Fountain and Kelburn Park fountain — will keep running until the water quality deteriorates and will then be emptied rather than refilled with fresh water.  

For more information on water restrictions this summer, visit the Wellington Water’s website, and check out these simple ways to save water at home.