We monitor and manage the taking of water from the region’s rivers, streams, lakes and aquifers, to ensure that water is used efficiently and that our waterways are well cared-for.
Climate change is bringing hotter, drier summers to our region, and our natural water sources are already showing signs of stress. Flow levels in some western Bay of Plenty streams dropped to record lows in March – May 2020, following several months of exceptionally dry weather.
We all need to forward-plan and reduce water use where we can, to keep our local waterways, wildlife, and people’s lives and livelihoods healthy, now and in the future.
Regional plan rules and consent conditions are in place to keep waterways healthy under usual weather conditions.
In exceptional circumstances, regional councils can also put temporary extra water use restrictions in place where needed to protect waterways from environmental harm. These take the form of a Water Shortage Direction (WSD) under s.329 of the Resource Management Act.
Rotorua Focus Zone – Level 2
Streams with their headwaters originating near Rotorua have had steadily dropping flows over recent months. For example, the Ngongotahā Stream has reached its lowest ever recorded flow since monitoring started in 1975.
The drop in flows is likely to be caused by a combination of geology in the area coupled with low rainfall in the region over the last two years. Groundwater in the Rotorua geothermal field has also shown signs of dropping levels.
On 12 January 2021 Council determined that a focus zone (shown in the map) be moved to Level 2 of Council’s operating procedure. This means additional analysis and reporting will be undertaken for streams in the zone, and should be an early indication that possible water restrictions could be imposed if stream flows continue to drop. Increased communication with consent holders and key stakeholders will also occur.
Rest of the Bay of Plenty – Level 1
Monthly assessments of stream and groundwater resources will continue.
Overview of Regional Council procedures in dry weather event
Normal water availability
Low rainfall, stream flows and soil moisture dropping
- Regular assessment of stream, soil and groundwater state
- Analysis of short and long-range weather forecasts
- Development of stakeholder communications plan
- Commence issue of regular situation reports
Impending water shortage
Reduced stream flows and groundwater levels
- Increased assessment, analysis and reporting
- Appointment of Water Shortage Event Manager
- Commence communication with affected stakeholders
- Consider scope of possible Water Shortage Direction
Water shortage event
Drought conditions, risk to waterway health
- Issue Water Shortage Direction
- Notify affected parties and increase compliance monitoring
- Continue assessment, analysis and reporting
- Review Water Shortage Direction every 14 days and reissue where needed
- Form drought committee with others eg. MPI, industry, iwi, city and district councils