A helping hand – Silverdale lifestyle block owner Aischa Parker, left, is assisted by ASAP Water’s driver Rob McMillan to fill her 1000 litre container from the pump station. Aischa says with a six week wait to fill her home water tank, asking ASAP for help was the only way she could get water for her cattle. Tankers queue at the Silverdale pump station. Operators say people reliant on tank water are desperate.
Both Auckland Council and the Hibiscus Coast community are rallying to help people reliant on rainwater tanks that are running dry – as the paper goes to print, Auckland was due to notch up a record 40 consecutive days without rain.
Although Government declared an official drought north of the harbour bridge last week, weather-wise the region has been in drought since late January (HM February 5).
Unprecedented demand, and reduced flow at filling stations, including temporary closure of the pumps by Watercare, has meant delays of up to six weeks in getting refills from water tanker operators.
As the paper goes to print, all 11 of Watercare’s Auckland water tanker filling stations are open.
All the tanker operators spoken to by Hibiscus Matters have significant wait lists and Healthy Water Tanks co-owner Garry Stephenson says all are working as fast as possible to keep up with demand.
He says a second outlet is needed at the 20-year-old Blue Gum pump station to speed up the filling process.
Council’s Auckland Emergency Management team is coordinating the biggest ever council-wide response, along with Watercare, with initial efforts targeting mainly the rural sector.
The first phase sees community centres being used as hubs for filling containers for domestic use, including Stanmore Bay Leisure Centre – more sites will be added.
Auckland Emergency Management general manager Kate Crawford says the next phase involves distributing 10,000 litre water tanks to locations that are still being finalised. These tanks will also be used to fill up domestic water containers.
At the same time, council is working with private suppliers from the country’s milk tanker fleet to see what tankers can be made available to assist.
“Importantly, the focus of this initiative will be to work with private operators, as alternative filling points, to reduce waiting times,” Ms Crawford says.
A Council spokesperson says the locations of additional fill up sites are yet to be determined but Council has definitely not discounted opening a facility on parts of the Hibiscus Coast, or placing water tanks for drinking water collection there.
“By putting in place this tanker option as a “halfway house” for independent tankers to fill up from, and increase frequency of delivery in more remote areas, the flow on effect is it will take pressure off the Watercare filling stations to increase the speed of those supplying the peninsula,” the spokesperson says.
Meanwhile offers of help from local residents and businesses include free fill-ups at Mitre 10 Whangaparaoa, and Mitch Boocock delivering ‘water babies’ (see below). Dozens of residents took to social media to offer water, showers and the use of washing machines.
However, not everyone is a Good Samaritan – there are also reports of water being stolen from tanks.
Council is advising everyone to conserve water, whether on town or tank supply, and Crs John Watson and Wayne Walker say the most practical solution at the moment is for the community to work together while we wait to see what further assistance Council can offer Coast residents.
Local water savers
Ask a neighbour on town supply if you can run a hose from one of their taps into the tank and reimburse them for the cost. Watercare’s water and wastewater charges mean it costs around $80 to fill a 5000-gallon tank. • Containers will be filled free of charge at Mitre 10 in Whangaparaoa. The company offers up to 1000 litres per week, and says it is not guaranteed to be drinkable. • Mitch Boocock is delivering free 20 litre containers of water. Private message him on Facebook (he is also on the Hibiscus Coast page). • Free showers and water filling is available at Stanmore Bay Leisure Centre. You don’t have to be a member – just talk to reception. • Volunteers are needed for community filling stations. Info: ph John Watson, 021 287 5999
Watercare says ‘what water shortage?’
Although Watercare is aware of the issues facing coastal and rural communities, Auckland as a whole does not have a water shortage. Levels in the source dams, springs and aquifers are currently 71 percent, a Watercare spokesperson told the paper last week. There are therefore currently no restrictions on water use. However, last week, Watercare launched a ‘water is precious’ campaign to highlight the need to treat water as a precious resource and not waste it. Ideas on reducing water consumption are at www.waterforlife.org.nz