A recent wave of hot dry weather has pushed Wairarapa one step up the official drought scale, with the region now classified as “very dry”.
The New Zealand Drought Index has five categories: dry, very dry, extremely dry, drought, and severe drought.
NIWA forecaster Ben Noll announced the upgrade to the second category yesterday afternoon, saying the Wairarapa and Wellington regions were the only ones in the country in the ‘very dry’ category.
“You are not in drought yet . . . it will still need some more weeks if not a month for that, but it’s not tracking well,” he said.
The region’s councils are monitoring river flows, with the South Wairarapa District Council enforcing further restrictions.
A McAuley’s Transport Ltd spokesman said demand of the number of water deliveries has soared with its trucks doing more than 50 trips a week to rural areas.
Mr Noll said Wairarapa soils were continuing to dry out, and were much drier than average.
“Basically, the overarching theme here is you guys have continued dry spells and haven’t seen much rain, and temperatures are hot and things continue to dry out, so not much good news there.”
With the ticking over to the second rung of the drought index, lower river flows and drier soils can be expected, he said.
Last month, Masterton recorded its second driest November in 61 years, collecting just 8mm of rain.
Martinborough had its third driest November in 63 years with 6mm.
Masterton District Council and Carterton District Council have not observed any changes in water levels but are monitoring river levels.
South Wairarapa District Council assets and operations manager Lawrence Stephenson said the Waiohine River from which the district drew water had reached its 3000 litres per second threshold.
A ban on automatic sprinklers was to take effect across South Wairarapa today, he said.
McAuley’s Transport Ltd general manager Steve McMahon said demand for water deliveries increased last week for rural dweller using rainwater tanks.
The company has two water tanks filled with 13,900 litres of water, doing at least five trips a day each to farms across Wairarapa.
Compared to last year, when rain was abundant, there was hardly any demand on water.
People need to make sure they conserved water as it would be a long summer, he said.
The Times-Age spoke to Eketahuna sheep and beef farmer Bruce MacKinsack in early October when he had already recorded over his annual average rainfall of 1500mm.
“It certainly has turned around dramatically from swampy to concrete dry in a short time,” Mr MacKinsack said.
He recorded 56mm of rain during November, a lot less compared to 310mm at the same time last year.
What’s to come
The first weekend of summer got off to a dry start with temperatures over 27 degrees Celsius, and the rest of this week won’t be much different.
Yesterday, Masterton recorded the country’s highest temperature of 29.1C, according to Metservice.
The next six days are expected to reach highs of 26C and above.
Today’s high should reach 30C, followed by Wednesday with an expected 27C, Thursday 28C, Friday 29C, Saturday 27C and Sunday 26C, the Metservice 10-day forecast says.
Showers and southerlies are predicted for early next week.
NIWA forecaster Ben Noll said it looked like there could be a band of rain over the weekend into next week. “But models have trended weaker, so there may only be showers around that time, but I guess our hopes have decreased a little bit for that.”