From November 2019 to May 2020, Auckland experienced its worst drought on record, receiving only 60 per cent of the normal rainfall.
While we have had some rain lately, it has not been enough to make up for the massive rainfall deficit and our Hūnua dams, which are our largest and most important water sources, are still severely depleted.
Normally the dams in our Hūnua and Waitākere ranges provide about 80 per cent of Auckland’s water. But to reduce the strain on these water sources, we are maximising production at our Waikato and Onehunga treatment plants which draw water from a river and aquifer.
And, while those measures are good, they’re not enough. We need 1.7 million Aucklanders to do their bit and conserve water.
Since the start of February, we’ve been running a campaign encouraging people to conserve water inside and outside the home. When we kicked off, the dry weather was causing water demand to skyrocket over 500 million litres per day. Since that peak, demand has tapered off. We are now asking Aucklanders to save 20L of water a day and adhere to the stage one outdoor water restrictions that came into force on 16 May.
Auckland’s collective daily water consumption figures are proof that you are listening, so thank you, and please keep up the good work!
Here are some small water-saving measures to help you save 20 litres:
- Spend a minute less in the shower - save 12 litres
- Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth - save 4 litres
- Use the half-flush when possible - save 6 litres
- Fix a leaking tap - save 33 litres a day
For more tips on how to reduce your water use, visit our water saving tips page.
about our water supply
From source to tap, a lot of effort goes into getting water from our local rivers, dams and aquifers and transforming it into the Aa-grade product that flows from our taps.
It is the result of research, extensive testing, specialised infrastructure and the work of more than 1000 people. It’s that journey and extensive process which makes water our most precious resource.
Managing our water is a massive task, requiring significant infrastructure. Across Auckland we operate:
- 28 water sources
- 15 water treatment plants
- 85 water reservoirs to store water (concrete tanks)
- 9432 kilometres of water pipes
While we plan decades in advance and continually upgrade and maintain our extensive water network, big spikes in water usage can strain our existing assets. Becoming a more water wise Auckland means we all get the most out of the existing infrastructure.
A lot of Auckland’s water comes from dams in the Hūnua and Waitākere ranges. Prolonged extreme weather events like the drought can cause dam levels to drop further than normal.
Normally in winter, our total dam storage level would be more than 80 per cent – and climbing. But because of the drought, we are a long way from there. Click here to see the latest dam storage levels.
This isn’t the first or the last time Auckland will suffer at the hands of a prolonged weather event. During the first half of 2019, the ‘big dry’ saw total water stores drop to 59.2 per cent. On these dry days water usage often increases as people head into the garden to provide some relief to their parched plants. In February 2020 we saw daily water consumption get as high as 565 million litres, which is a record for Auckland, but not one we’re wanting to repeat anytime soon.
While the weather is out of our control, how we use water is very much in our hands. If each of us adopts water wise behaviour we can reduce the strain on our precious resource, and when our dams are full we’ll be able to create a healthy buffer for when times get tough.
What is fresh water and where does it come from?
The amount of fresh water on Earth hasn’t changed in millions of years. Water that was once guzzled by woolly mammoths has been recycled through the atmosphere and falls from our skies today. However, what has changed is the number of people needing access to fresh drinking water.
Only 2.5 per cent of water in the world is drinkable. Of this, only 1 per cent is accessible (the rest is frozen in glaciers and snow), making only 0.0007 per cent of Earth’s water available to hydrate 6.8 billion people. That water needs to be collected, treated, and managed to ensure the health of those consuming it.
Auckland's overall demand for water is on the increase
A growing population and expanding businesses are pushing up the total demand for water. Over the past 20 years the city’s consumption has increased by more than 100 million litres a day. Though we’re prepared for this increase, we all need to be mindful of how we use water, especially during a drought when our dams are under added pressure.