22 November 2019
A new simplified water restrictions system will make it easier for Masterton residents to understand how to conserve water this summer.
Masterton District Council (MDC) has changed its approach to managing water use in gardens and will restrict sprinkler use to alternate days throughout summer, once this is triggered by low levels in the Waingawa River, the source of Masterton’s water.
MDC’s Manager Assets and Operations David Hopman said the change would avoid the confusion that has sometimes occurred in the past.
“Water restrictions have become something of a norm in summer, but we’ve found that some people have not known what restriction level applies because it has potentially changed from week to week.
“What we’ll be doing this summer is determining when the river level requires sprinklers to be limited to alternate days, and keeping that restriction in place for the summer.
“If there is a sustained period of dry weather, we may have to limit water use further for a time, but the default position over summer will be a limit on sprinkler use to alternate days.”
Rain over summer does not necessarily change the need for a restriction, Mr Hopman said.
“If there is a period of rain, the river level may rise quickly, but it can also fall just as quickly. And when the river is in flood it is often unsuitable for treatment.”
Sprinkler use on alternate days – even days for even-numbered houses, odd days for odd numbers – would allow gardens to stay healthy, Mr Hopman said, and handheld hoses would also be permitted on all days.
This summer, the sprinkler restriction will begin when the river flow falls below 2,000 litres per second (l/s). Should the river fall below 1,300 l/s, water would be restricted to handheld hoses, with all watering prohibited below 1,100 l/s.
Last year, alternate sprinkler days were introduced when the river fell below 1,900 l/s, and water was limited to handheld hoses when flows were below 1,700 l/s.
“While this year the alternate day sprinkler restriction will begin at a slightly higher flow level, the next level of watering restriction (handheld hoses only) is at a lower flow level than previously. A total ban on water use would be triggered if the river flow fell below 1,100 l/s.
“We believe this will enable us to ensure the health of the Waingawa River, and security of drinking water supply, while enabling the many Masterton residents who love their gardens to continue caring for them.”
The council is committed to its own 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 species in public spaces.
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 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.
Outside your home:
- 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 harbours.
In your garden:
- 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 off 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.