Low water levels
Current Status - Status 1
Southland's temperate climate means the region has an abundance of lush native forests, waterbodies, diverse wetland ecosystems and productive farmland. However, water shortages are a normal part of Southland's weather patterns and the region's water resources face pressure from factors such as changing climatic conditions and an increase in water takes. We use four levels to describe our response to a water shortage situation - click here to view these.
Water shortages can affect the environment, agricultural sector, economy and wider society.
For example, decreased water quantity can result in
- decreased water quality and increased water temperatures
- impacts on the health of both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems;
- soil moisture deficits which cause a decline in pasture and crop growth and a subsequent deterioration in stock condition
- loss of productivity and animal welfare issues in the agricultural sector;
- impacts on productivity of industrial operations as they use water for processing and cooling as well as for waste management
- additional treatment of drinking water supplies to ensure a standard is maintained
- the wider public facing restrictions on their general water use especially water for washing cars and watering gardens.
Under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) Environment Southland has the responsibility to manage the adverse effects of water resource use. Environment Southland's regional planning documents contain polices, rules and methods to manage these pressures.
Resource consents have conditions related to water flows and levels, with cutoffs included when these are low, in both rivers and groundwater.
2022/23 Summer Forecast
NIWA provides regular three-monthly forecasting. In the recent forecast for December to February 2023, NIWA has stated that La Niña conditions continued during November, and a marine heatwave developed in New Zealand’s coastal waters. Both of these will influence the summer climate.
More specifically for Southland:
- Temperatures are very likely to be above average (60% chance). More easterly quarter winds and marine heatwave conditions will result in high heat and humidity at times.
- Rainfall totals are most likely to be below normal (50% chance). Due to La Niña, more frequent offshore winds will likely result in extended dry spells, elevating the risk for extreme dryness or drought like conditions. Low rainfall may also occur around the hydro lakes. However, the region should remain aware of the potential for a tropical moisture plume in January or February.
Soil moisture levels are most likely to be near normal (45% chance) and river flows are equally likely to be near normal or below normal (40% chance each).
The year-to-date rainfall has been variable around the region ranging from very low to high. The average for the region was 94% of the normal. Coastal Southland has had only 88% of the long-term normal rainfall, whilst Northern Southland has had 106%.
As a result, river flows reflect the highly variable rainfall in December. Some localised storms around the Hokonui Hills and Waikaia headwaters caused some high river levels on local tributaries. The Waimea Stream had 122% of the average December flow, but rivers in coastal Southland were much lower, with the Waihopai having only 47%.
Groundwater levels are at or near normal for this time of year at most monitoring sites. Some locations remain below normal levels. Of concern is the Edendale aquifer which is much lower than usual. In previous years (e.g. 2017/18), many users in the Edendale township area have raised issues with their water supplies as groundwater levels receded over summer/autumn. Due to its characteristics, it is rare for this aquifer to recharge over summer, which suggests that there may be water supply issues again this season.
Current water restrictions for the region
- Southland District: District-wide sprinkler ban. For more information check the Southland District Council website.
- Gore District: Water restrictions for Gore and Mataura. For more information check the Gore District Council website.
- Invercargill City Council: Water restrictions. For more information check the Invercargill City Council website
Managing and conserving water in both urban and rural areas is key when water levels are low.
You can find more information and resources here:
Drought support - tips and resources
Long-term groundwater levels
View water levels for our underground aquifers since we began monitoring.
Long-term river flows
View long-term river flow data to see how the current flows compare with previous years.
Water Shortage FAQ
Water Shortage Status