As water usage hits a new high in Masterton District, residents are being urged by Masterton District Council is [MDC] to curb consumption – specifically garden watering – in an effort to avoid further restrictions.
Garden watering is currently restricted to sprinklers on alternate days to protect the health of the Waingawa River, the source of Masterton’s drinking water, but with prolonged dry weather forecast, this could be tightened to limit watering to handheld hoses.
On Monday, total water usage recorded from the Kaituna Water Treatment plant was 17,800 cubic metres [17.8 million litres].
The volume of wastewater reaching the Homebush Wastewater Treatment plant over the same period was about 7,000 cubic metres less.
“That points to garden watering being a major contributor to water usage,” MDC assets and infrastructure acting manager Phil Evans said.
“Gardeners in Masterton know water restrictions are a part of life in summer, but we have had several wet summers in the past which has eased the situation. The last time usage reached anything like this level was in 2020, when we recorded daily usage of about 16,800 cubic metres.
“We are encouraging people to think about how they are using water. Gardens do not need to be watered every day – overwatering can create its own problems.
“If everyone does their bit, we can maintain the health of the Waingawa River and Masterton gardens.”
MDC has taken its own steps to reduce water loss.
The watering of council parks and sports grounds is following restrictions and is now limited to ensuring the survival of annuals, and at-risk trees [which are hand-watered], with limited sprinkler use for the Queen Elizabeth cricket block from non-mains supply for 15 minutes on Monday and Tuesday evenings only.
The council also closed the dive pool at the Trust House Recreation Centre before Christmas while it finds a solution to a major water leak from the complex, which was losing an eyewatering 48,000 litres of water each day.
Across the district, it’s estimated that about 32 per cent – or 4.3 cubic metres – of average daily water volume is lost through leaks.
The majority of Masterton residential properties are now fitted with smart water meters. These are not used for charging for water but allow residents to check for potential leaks.
If the numbers on the meter are changing when all taps are off, this may be a sign of a leak.
The meter, accessible under the blue plate on the boundary of properties, may also show a flag symbol if continuous flow is recorded.
There might be a good reason for this, but often water flowing all the time, even at night, can mean there is leak somewhere.
Some things to keep
an eye out for include:
dripping taps [including outside taps].
toilet cisterns that are overflowing [water constantly running into the toilet bowl].
signs of water behind your dishwasher or washing machine.
your hot water cylinder relief valve letting water drip into the gully trap.
wet patches under your house [if it sits on piles].
unexpected green patches in your lawn.
wet patches on your drive or paths.
Residents may also hear water running at night when everything else is quiet.
Do your part,
be water smart
Although MDC appreciates that not watering gardens may be a big ask for some people, there are some handy tips and tricks that can help you save water both in your home and in your garden.
In your home:
Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth.
Take shorter showers.
Fix any leaky taps, toilets, showers, and dripping garden taps.
Install dual-flush toilets instead of single-flush toilets when renovating.
Use the dishwasher and washing machine only when you have a full load.
Put the plug in the sink when shaving or washing hands, dishes, or vegetables, and run just enough water for what you’re doing.
Don’t use your toilet as a rubbish bin – it takes a lot more water to flush down sanitary waste, cigarette butts, food leftovers, etc.
Install a shower flow-saver disc to your existing shower to not only reduce the excess flow of water but also your water heating bill.
Use water-efficient appliances, bathroom fittings, and tapware. The “star” rating stickers indicate the water efficiency, and there can be large differences in water use between products, so make sure to buy or upgrade to water-efficient when possible.
Outside your home:
Use a hose with a trigger to control the water flow and the start-stop action. It also helps direct water without wasting any.
Turn the tap off when you’re finished.
Use a broom to sweep hard surfaces like paths and driveways instead of trying to hose down leaves and twigs.
Use a bucket and sponge instead of a hose to wash your car and, where possible, wash your car on the lawn to prevent soapy water from entering the street drain and flowing into streams and rivers.
In your garden:
Collect rainwater to provide an alternative to tap water. Tanks are available at the Council’s Queen Street Customer Service Centre.
Switch to drought-tolerant plants to cope with dry summer weather and watering restrictions.
Recycle bath/shower water or water used in your washing machine [also called greywater] on the garden, but only on plants that are not going to be eaten. Greywater should not be stored and should be used immediately to prevent disease.
Group your plants into high or low-water users to develop an efficient watering system.
Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil and to protect from drying effects of wind and sun. Mulching also helps keep weeds away.
Weed your garden regularly as weeds compete for available moisture.
Leaf cover and lawn clippings left on the lawn serve as a good mulch to provide shade, slow water loss, conserve moisture, and help preserve nutrients in the soil.
Test soil moisture every four to seven days during dry weather conditions, and only water if needed.
Don’t let the sun and wind strip your plants off their moisture. Water your garden on calm days during the cool hours – early morning or evening – to avoid rapid evaporation.
Water your garden low and slow – plants take up moisture through their feeder roots and low, slow watering by hand is the best way to get it there. Moveable sprinklers are the least water-effective.
Deep soak your plants to encourage feeder roots to grow deeply in search of water instead of sprinkling, which encourages shallow roots.
Avoid over-watering your plants as it encourages fungus, root rot, rusts, mildew and black-spot.