Emergency powers invoked to address Auckland drought


Waikato Water Treatment Plant

From today, we will draw 15 million litres of water a day more from the Waikato River, using emergency powers under section 330 of the Resource Management Act. This is in response to a record-breaking drought which is having a significant impact on the region’s water supply.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says, "Since November 2019, Auckland has received less than half its normal rainfall, leading to a steep decline in water storage levels in our dams, from around 90 per cent full in November 2019 to 42 per cent full in May 2020. On Tuesday 16 June, after two weeks of relatively wet weather, the dams are still only 44.1 per cent full—compared with an average of almost 78 per cent full for this time of year.
“The use of emergency powers under the RMA highlights the urgency of the situation Auckland now faces as a result of this drought. These powers will be used by Watercare to draw an extra 15 million litres of water a day from the Waikato River.

“This will increase immediate total production from the river to 165 million litres a day and reduce demand on the region’s drought-hit dams.
“If we do not get enough rain in winter and spring, Auckland will face a crisis in water supply this summer, with a drastic impact on households and industry. I have instructed Watercare to seek supply from every available water source to head off a potential emergency.
“Steps are being taken to utilise additional water sources such as the Hays Creek dam, where a water treatment plant will be built to ensure it can supply potable water to the Auckland system, and the use of a bore and a new reservoir in Pukekohe.
“Auckland Council’s Healthy Waters unit is also using powers under section 330 of the RMA to provide water supply/non-potable water for construction works at a number of sites around Auckland, including North Piha, Western Springs and Lake Pupuke, and is urgently investigating the use of such powers at Te Henga Quarry,” says Phil Goff.
We have been maximising production at our Waikato Water Treatment Plant over the past 12 months. Current resource consents allow us to treat up to 150 million litres a day year-round, and 175 million litres per day between 1 May and 30 October when the river is above median flows. (The river has not been above median flows since October 2019.)
Construction works associated with the Waikato Water Treatment Plant upgrade will enable the treatment of up to a total of 175 million litres a day once completed in August.
Chief executive Raveen Jaduram says, we are using the emergency powers on a temporary basis until the river rises above median flows or the company negotiates to use another entity’s resource consent allowance.
“We are negotiating positively with Hamilton City Council to use 25 million litres a day of the council’s water allocation on a temporary basis. This allocation is consented but not required by the council at this time,” says Jaduram.
“We are pleased with the discussions at this stage in the process but are continuing to look at all possible options.”
Ahead of using the RMA powers, we initiated discussions with five iwi, nine Marae from Rangiriri – Te Pūaha o Waikato as well as with the Waikato Regional Council.
On 16 May, Auckland Council – at our request – implemented water restrictions for the first time since 1994. In addition, we started asking residents to reduce their indoor water use by at least 20 litres a day and businesses to reduce their indoor water use by a minimum of 10 per cent.
Jaduram says, “We are grateful that Aucklanders have for the most part been achieving water savings targets, but we are still seeing instances where daily use is exceeding the target. As a community we need to redouble our efforts now to save water and help to avert an even worse situation come summer.”
While reducing the region’s water use does not replenish the water supply dams, it does slow down the rate at which they’re declining.