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.

Current situation

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.

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

Overview of Regional Council procedures in dry weather event

Level 1: 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
Level 2: 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
Level 3: 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

The details of each WSD will be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the particular environmental risks and use demands on each affected waterway. It could involve staggered timing for water takes, or a reduction in the amount or rate of take, or the purposes for which people may take water. See a link to our full WSD Standard Operating Procedure at the bottom of this page for further details.

On 12 March 2020, the Government declared a large-scale adverse drought event affecting all of the North Island, including Bay of Plenty. 

Assistance is available for farmers and growers who are affected by the drought through their industry networks, as well as:

We’re working with MPI, Rural Support Trust and local industry representatives through the Bay of Plenty Primary Sector Co-ordination Group to support a co-ordinated regional drought response.

Whether your water comes from a bore, stream or town supply, we can all take steps to reduce water use. Here’s some links to help get you started:

If you’re concerned about illegal water use, unusually low stream flows, or if your bore has dried up, please let us know by calling our 0800 884 883 Pollution Hotline. 

You will need to apply for a resource consent if you want to take water for any purpose other than for reasonable domestic household or stock drinking use, if:

  • You are taking more than 35,000L per day (35m3/day) from a groundwater source (bore, well); or
  • You are taking more than 15,000L per day (15m3/day) from a surface water source (river, stream, spring, pond, drain), or are taking at a rate of more than 2.5 litres per second.

You can enquire online or give our Duty Consents Officer a call on 0800 884 881 extn. 9090 to check if your water use requires a consent. Find out more on our water take consents web page or by emailing consents.queries@boprc.govt.nz.

All consent holders that take more than five litres of water per second, and most new consent holders taking at a rate less than this, are required to accurately measure and report on their actual water use. In most cases, this means that the water meter information will be required to be telemetered to Council. See our water metering web page for details.

See our interactive map of current resource consents for details of all water-use and other resource consents issued by Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

We collect real-time rainfall, river level, stream flow and soil moisture data from more than 100 monitoring sites throughout the region. Check out the map links below for:

See our Environmental Data Portato access more environmental monitoring information for your particular area.

BOPRC dry weather infographic

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28 May 2020

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