22 January 2020

Ongoing dry conditions have forced a ban on sprinklers in Masterton, with garden watering limited to handheld hoses only until the level of the Waingawa River improves.

Masterton District Council (MDC) is responding to flows in the river, the source of Masterton’s drinking water, falling below 1,300 litres per second.

MDC’s Manager Assets and Operations David Hopman said the restriction to using only handheld hoses was unusual, but warned forecasts indicated even tighter restrictions may be necessary.

All watering would be prohibited if flows fall below 1,100 l/s.

“We appreciate that garden lovers in Masterton will find being unable to use sprinklers tough, but we are going through an unusually dry period.

“And weather forecasts do not show much significant rain in the next month, which will put the river under even greater strain.

“That could mean a total watering ban is required in coming weeks. That’s something we’ve avoided, with the help of the weather, for about a decade, and is not a step we would take lightly.”

Watering was last limited to handheld hoses briefly in October 2018, before a very wet November and December eased the situation.

Mr Hopman said gardeners should be able to keep plants healthy using handheld hoses.

The council itself is continuing to implement water conservation measures, including spending around $40,000 a year on leak detection. It also has an ongoing programme of replacing old water mains, uses non-potable bore water to irrigate sports parks, and has introduced drought-resistant plant species in public spaces.

Next month, it will begin the installation of water meters, which are expected to reduce consumption and aid in leak detection.

Do your part, be water smart

The Council appreciates that not watering gardens may be a big ask for some people, but there are some handy tips and tricks that can help you save water both in your home and in your garden.

In your garden:

  • 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 into streams and rivers.
  • 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 out.
  • 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 4-7 days during dry weather conditions, and only water if needed.
  • Don’t let the sun and wind strip your plants of 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.

 In your home:

  • Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Fix any leaky taps, toilets and showers. Also fix 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.