Are Water Shortages a Sign of the Times?

Did you know Windy Wellington is leaking water sending its residents into a water crisis?

The heart of this issue lies not only in the staggering amount of water lost daily due to leaky pipes, but the increasing temperatures during summer. With more people returning home after the holidays, and minimal rain on the forecast (a drastic change from last year’s wet summer), Wellingtonians are being asked to conserve their water to prevent heading into a level three water restriction.

Currently Wellington, Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt and Porirua are in level two restrictions which ban household garden sprinklers and irrigation systems, but the move to level three will mean a stop on all outdoor water use and reducing indoor water use where possible.

The worst case scenario? Level four will see all households and businesses needing to reduce indoor water use by 50% and a regional state of emergency if water levels get so low that suburbs run dry this summer.

In recent years we’ve seen water shortages and efforts to conserve become more frequent throughout the country, and when mixed with sudden events like leaky pipes in the towns supply, it wreaks havoc on our communities and infrastructures.

Businesses in Wellington were asked to limit their water use but are now growing increasingly frustrated about pipes leaking water right outside their doors, and for more than three months a childcare centre on Tinakori Road has been watching a leak oozing water. With water play a key element for learning, and both indoor and outdoor water use a must in childcare, it’s no wonder there is cause for concern.

With people in all areas being affected by this crisis, it makes us look at the bigger picture of how we can work to reduce our water usage throughout the year.

While Wellington Council work to fix the leaky pipes, they have put together some simple ways to save water at home:

In the kitchen

  • Dishwashers don’t use as much water as you might think, but leaving a high-pressure kitchen tap running can use up to 12 litres per minute.   
  • Skip the pre-rinse – scrape off food into the compost/bin instead. 
  • Handwashing your dishes? Fill your sink rather than washing under a running tap.

In the laundry

  • A washing machine can use more than 120 litres of water per load! Cutting down your use is simple.
  • Only do full loads of laundry.
  • Be an outfit repeater! Got an outfit with no visible stains? If it passes the sniff test, hang it up and wear it again later in the week. 
  • If you’re in the market for a new washing machine, front-loaders can use significantly less water. 

In the bathroom


  • One minute in the shower can use up to 18 litres of water. Keep it quick in the shower (about as long as a song) and make every minute count, with an efficient shower head. Find them at your local hardware store.
  • Brushing your teeth? Turn off the tap! A bathroom tap uses around 6 litres of water per minute.


  • Stick to the half-flush and save the full flush for when you really, really need it. 
  • If your whānau or flatmates don’t mind, ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow’.
  • Ignoring that slow drip in the loo? It could be using up to 28 litres of wai per day – get it checked out by a plumber.  Not sure if there’s a leak? Put a few drops of food colouring in the cistern. If the colouring appears in the toilet bowl without flushing, you have a leak (you may need to wait an hour or two for the food colouring to leak into the bowl).

In the garden and outdoors

Hand watering:

  • Add mulch (old leaves or grass clippings after mowing) to your garden. This helps stop wind and sun drying out the soil, cutting evaporation by up to 70% and puts nutrients back in the soil.
  • The middle of the day is when the sun is hottest – and evaporation happens fast. Water in the early morning or evening, so your garden gets the maximum benefit.  
  • In dry weather, check your garden every 4-7 days. If your soil is moist 10cm below the surface, don’t worry about watering. Water close to the ground at a rate the soil can absorb. Slow watering and not over-watering your garden is important. 

Sprinklers & irrigation: 

  • IN: Deep soakings once or twice a week. OUT: Frequent light water sprinklings. Deep soakings encourage feeder roots to grow and help your plants survive short term drought conditions.
  • Use drippers or directional sprinkler heads. These make sure water is going where you want it, not wasted on your paths or fences.

Water is a precious commodity and regardless of the time of year, we should be mindful of usage.

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