Watercare confident Wellsford water supply will hold up

Watercare has moved to allay fears that current water shortages in Wellsford could end up putting the town supply at risk.

Rodney Local Board member Colin Smith raised the alarm late last month, saying water levels in the Hoteo River, which supplies Wellsford, were lower than they had been for decades.

“I think the Hoteo is just about b*ggered. It’s just getting so low and there is so much draw on it that it is slowing to nothing,” he said.

He added that the social implications and stress caused if the town supply was switched off would be enormous.

Mr Smith said that in addition to the current drought, population increases had added to the pressure on Wellsford’s water supply and the town’s water infrastructure had not kept pace with increased demand.

He further blamed plantings and uncontrolled vegetation growth in the Hoteo catchment areas. He said water was being sucked up by plants rather than flowing into the Hoteo and its tributaries.

Mr Smith praised Watercare for prompt action during the current emergency, in particular organising tanker-to-tanker fill ups.

The scheme has seen a fleet of Fonterra milk tankers deployed to alleviate pressure on the Wellsford water supply. Tankers fill up in Warkworth and then head to Centennial Park in Wellsford where the water is transferred to other tankers to supply residents who are not on the town supply but are dependent on their own water tanks. These tanks have often run dry.

Last week, the tanker-to-tanker fill ups reduced the demand at the Wellsford filling station from hundreds of thousands of litres per day to just over 2200 litres per day.

But Mr Smith said in light of the current emergency, Watercare and Auckland Council needed to undertake a full review of Wellsford’s water needs, as this situation was bound to repeat itself in future years, particularly with a growing population and changes in the climate.   

Meanwhile, Watercare says it remains unlikely that it will need to cut off the Wellsford town supply.

Spokesperson Maxine Clayton said flow levels were stable over the last two weeks.

“At present, we are drawing 10 to 15 per cent of the current flow at our intake point, so the river has more than sufficient to cope with our extraction,” she said.

Nevertheless, Ms Clayton reiterated that Watercare was encouraging all Aucklanders to use water wisely and tips for doing so could be found online (waterforlife.org.nz).

She added that Watercare had been investigating alternative water sources in Wellsford for some time. Several potential aquifers had been identified and water quality tests were being done.

“This option is some years off as further investigations are required and Watercare must apply for resource consent to draw the bore water,” she said.