Water coming through the road at the intersection of Opaki Rd and Te Ore Ore Road on Tuesday. PHOTO/PAM GRAHAM

Pam Graham
pam.graham@age.co.nz

Water was bubbling through the surface at the corner of Te Ore Ore and Opaki roads in Masterton on Tuesday, hours before the town moved one notch away from its first ever total watering ban. And, it’s only October.

Earlier this year, Masterton District Council agreed to impose complete watering bans throughout Masterton if the Waingawa River flow goes below 1100 litres per second, something forecast to happen for up to 20 days this summer.

Previously, the strictest restriction was limiting watering to handheld hoses on alternate days. There are now three levels of restriction in the district – sprinklers on alternate days, handheld hoses only, and a total ban.

As from yesterday, the council has moved the indicator on its information sign on the corner of Chapel and Hope streets straight to handheld hoses as the Waingawa River’s flow has dropped below 1300 litres per second.

Assets and operations manager David Hopman said the council begins looking at water conservation measures when the river drops below 1900 litres per second.

He said the river level had dropped extremely fast and residents should be prepared for a total ban.

“We’ve worked with the Greater Wellington Regional Council to manage Masterton’s water consumption in line with maintaining the health of our rivers,” Hopman said.

“For the first time, our water restrictions are directly tied to the level of water in our rivers.

“It means that if the rivers get below a certain level over a sustained period, we will be asking residents not to water their garden, either with sprinklers or handheld hoses.

“October is very early for our district’s rivers to drop to this level. However, we are hoping that forecast rain will provide some reprieve over the next week.”

The district council has said it wants to show leadership in water conservation by trying to conserve water in its own operations, but the Times-Age was told by a resident that the water leak in Opaki Rd was first reported a week ago.

A council spokeswoman said there was a leak in a water pipe that was expected to be fixed on Tuesday night, subject to the New Zealand Transport Agency’s approval of traffic management on the state highway.

The water was running off before it reached the pansies planted in the northern roundabout.

The council has signalled that this is the last year pansies would be planted because they required too much water. In future, plants that are more tolerant of drier conditions would be planted.

People can find out the water restriction rating online at www.mstn.govt.nz/services/water-services/ or in Saturday editions of the Times-Age.

Carterton District Council restricted watering to alternate days earlier this month, with South Wairarapa under this restriction all year round.