The FAQs below and many more are available on Wellington Water's website.
What’s the point of water restrictions?
Wellington’s daily water supply has a limit, as the treatment plants can only supply so much. If demand exceeds what the treatment plants can supply there’s a risk that the water levels in the storage reservoirs across the region are drawn down too low, causing water quality issues and in an extreme scenario even depressurising areas of the network. This can be dangerous as it increases the risk of contamination of drinking water, and boil water notices may need to be issued to stop people getting sick.
This means we have to be very careful to manage the daily water supply and demand, and don’t use too much. That’s where water restrictions come in. They help everyone understand how they can best manage their personal water use, so there’s enough to go round for the necessities.
Level 1 splits outdoor water use between odd and even houses, to spread the load of daily water demand. This means people can water their gardens regularly without everyone using a lot of water all at once. It also reduces waste by restricting watering to the morning and evening, when water is less likely to evaporate in the heat of the day.
Level 2 makes sure people are watering their gardens only when they really need to, with no sprinklers or irrigation systems, and only watering gardens by hand.
Level 3 comes into play when we need to take serious action, and all residential outdoor water use must be stopped. We know that people put a lot of hard mahi and love into their gardens, so consider using grey water to water your garden – just not your vegetables, or any plants you’re planning on eating.
Level 4 means we’re in a significant water shortage. On top of stopping all outdoor water use, we must reduce indoor use. This could include 2-minute showers and reducing laundry to one load per person, per week.
How can you ask me to restrict my water use, when we’re losing so much water because of leaks?
Finding and fixing leaks is one of Wellington Water’s top priorities, but with the resources available they can’t fix them all. They’re working on the issue, but it won’t happen overnight. The risk of a water shortage this summer and tighter water restrictions is real, and the situation may shift quickly.
To ensure there’s enough water to go around for the necessities, we need everyone to do their bit. Water restrictions help people understand how they can best save water at their place, and when to do so. If people follow the restrictions, it reduces the chance of moving to higher levels.
Water restrictions are enforced through council bylaws. Wellington Water recommend the level of restrictions for their council shareholders to implement.
How would a water shortage affect me?
If Wellington experiences tighter water restrictions, we may ask you to reduce your indoor use as much as possible. At Level 3, we ask you to consider using less water indoors, i.e. taking shorter showers or ensuring that you’re doing full loads of laundry. At Level 4, we ask people to reduce their showers to 2 minutes each, and do one load of laundry per person, per week.
If we can’t get demand down far enough and face a severe water shortage, we may need to issue boil water advisory notices, as low reservoir levels and low water pressure in pipes can increase the risk of contamination. A boil water notice is when you must boil tap water for at least one minute before drinking, using it to prepare food or in cleaning.
What happens if the current level of restriction isn't enough?
If the current restriction level doesn't decrease demand to match available supply, then we may have to move to the next level of water restrictions.
Why is this summer more serious than previous summers?
Over the past two summers, there has been a real risk of tighter water restrictions – but they’ve been narrowly avoided thanks to substantial and unusual rainfall in summer because of ex-tropical cyclones Dovi and Gabrielle. We can’t assume that this will happen again. El Niño conditions are forecast, and we’re expecting a hotter, drier summer than the previous two.
This combination of increasing leaks, population growth, above average water use, and forecast El Niño conditions all increase the risk of tighter water restrictions.