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24 February 2021

Garden watering in Masterton is now limited to handheld hoses, following a sustained period of dry weather and falling levels in the Waingawa River, the source of Masterton’s drinking water.

Sprinklers cannot be used.

The river has now fallen below a flow rate of 1,300 litres a second, the trigger for the watering restriction level to move to use of handheld hoses only.

Handheld hoses can be used at any time, but Masterton District Council Manager Assets and Operations David Hopman urged residents to continue to limit unnecessary use of water.

“Water conservation measures do make a real difference to the health of the river.

“We appreciate that water restrictions make life difficult for gardeners, but they are not unexpected. We have been fortunate this summer, with a very late start to restrictions, but the lack of recent rain means the river level is now low.”

A total watering ban will be imposed if the flow in the Waingawa River falls below 1,100 litres per second.

“We aim to respond to changes in the river level as quickly as possible – up or down. Water restrictions can change fast so people should keep an eye on our roadside signs and our website and social media pages, and an ear on the radio.”

Each year the Council spends $40,000 on leak detection. And around 75 per cent of urban Masterton homes now have water meters installed.

Meters will not be used for charging purposes before the 2022/23 financial year, but can be used to identify potential leaks.

If all taps are turned off, and numbers on the meter are continuing to turn, it may indicate a leak. Signs of leaks may include unexpected wet areas in paths, or unusually green areas on lawns.

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 rivers.

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.