Auckland's depleting dams are bordering on a crisis for the city, according to Watercare's CEO, with Sunday's rain doing little to dampen the severe drought.
"Unfortunately all that rain yesterday resulted in our lakes going up by just 1 percent, so the drought is still on. We need more rain for many, many days," chief executive Raveen Jaduram told The AM Show on Monday morning.
Car washing and water-blasting duties were off for the day as the city was hammered by heavy rain - the wild weather decreasing Auckland's daily water usage by 20 million litres. These activities might be productive ways to pass the time in lockdown, but Jaduram says these are prime examples of unnecessary water usage.
"The only water usage [the rain] would have stopped is all the outdoor uses - washing cars, watering gardens... and that resulted in us using 20 million litres less," he explained.
"The total demand in Auckland dropped to 400 megalitres a day - that's 400 million litres. That's what we're able to do. Unfortunately when it's not raining, the demand is around 420 million litres a day."
Watercare is calling for Aucklanders to work together to bring the daily demand down to that 400 megalitre mark. Doing so will buy us "more time", Jaduram says, as experts remain unsure as to how long the drought will continue.
"We've got two challenges. We've got COVID-19... and then we've got the drought. We don't want to lose focus on the fact that we are in a serious drought," Jaduram said.
Auckland's lakes are currently only 46.5 percent full. Without sufficient rain and reduced water usage across households, Jaduram is concerned whether there will be enough water for next summer.
"The challenge is if we [transition] into the coming summer without much rain... every few days [our lakes] drops by [a] percent. If we get rain like yesterday, it raises by a percent. I'm really concerned about whether we can get into summer with a decent amount of rain.
"We're very, very dependent on rain for the next few months."
What we can do
If Aucklanders willingly participate in reducing their water usage, the changes only need to be small, Jaduram says.
"A little bit by lots of us makes a big difference."
Simple but effective way people can reduce their water usage are:
- taking shorter showers. Jaduram challenges people to cut the water at the four-minute mark
- turning the tap off when the water is not in use e.g. when brushing your teeth
- when washing your hands for 20-seconds as per the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 guidelines, wet your hands and turn off the tap while lathering the soap. When your hands are well cleaned, turn the tap back on to rinse
- using the hose and water-blaster as little as possible. Try not to wash the car or water the garden unless it's absolutely necessary.
"We need to value water more than what we price it at," Jaduram said.
"All those little things help us preserve the water... if we get the rain, well and good. If we don't, we need to look back as Aucklanders and say, 'we did everything we could and we have survived' - or we need to do more."