Dry winter in South Island causing concern for hydro lakes

An unusually dry winter in the central South Island has caused concern for hydro lakes in the Mackenzie country.

Shores are drying up along Lake Tekapo as its precious water is slowly disappearing.

Local resident Graeme Murray says the long, cold winter is starting to take its toll. 

"When you see the island and you can walk across it, that means it's getting low."

So low, in fact, it has dropped 10 metres in just three months since the start of June.

Just 20 minutes down the road and Lake Pukaki is draining away too, exposing long, sweeping stone beaches rarely seen before.

"They get to this point maybe once or twice a decade," says Meridian market and production manager Guy Waipara. "It's in a significant spot right now."

The whole country relies on the area's water for power over the cold winter months.

Much-needed winter rain has missed the hydro lakes, which only have enough storage to last a few months. It's now a desperate watch-and-wait for the snow high up in the mountains to melt and refill the lakes. But that won't happen until well into spring. 

With supplies strained, industry expert Barry Leyland says those who are paying spot prices for power are feeling the pinch.

Power retailer Flick Electric sells power to homeowners at the wholesale rate and says we are getting through the worst of it.

Now, all Tekapo locals can hope for is that they're through the worst of winter and the snow has fallen in the right places to refill the lakes.