We celebrate being the town of trees and champions – but those trees are thirsty.
Cambridge has been consistently hotter and drier than usual this year.
January and February – our driest months – generally bring about 140mm of rain. To date this year, there has been virtually none in some areas of Waipa.
A rain gauge near Te Awamutu which recorded 133mm of rain in January 2018 clocked just 21mm last month and to last week had recorded 8mm in February – compared to 145mm at the same time last year.
That’s bad news for residents relying on rainwater.
Waikato Water and Cartage, one of two water delivery companies in the district, is now delivering an average of 400,000 litres day, carting roughly half of that around Cambridge, the rest mostly around Waipa and some further afield in the Waikato.
That equates to about the water needed to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool every week.
But averaging around two million litres a week is not unusual for the Cambridge-based company at this time of year.
“I guess you could say business is booming,” said Darryl Brewer, manager at Waikato Water and Cartage. “This is pretty normal for how dry we are at the moment.”
The company delivers its 13,000 to 14,000 litre loads of water to mostly rural families and lifestyle blocks, as well as the occasional farmer who’s bore water supply has run dry.
“Some people have gone without water for a few days – every load is pretty much a desperate situation.”
Darryl said those in a sticky situation trying to save water should always make sure their hoses are turned off properly.
“That’s how people tend to lose their water. And if anyone’s desperate we say don’t do washing – or take it to town.”
Usually under these conditions Waipa would usually be under water restrictions, but not this year.
An upgrade last year to the Cambridge water treatment plant increased capacity by seven million litres a day – and the introduction of water metres has been credited with driving usage down by around 20 per cent.
Under a special permit and meter, Darryl’s company hauls water from the town supply, its three trucks delivering about 13 loads a day.
It has been as much busier start to the New Year – in 2018 the region was given a few good early soakings.
“Last summer, before Christmas, we were this busy. But as soon as Christmas Day came it all died,” Darryl said.
At the start of last week, the last significant rainfall the district received was in the final week of December. A few days of showers over the weekend provided a much-needed soak, but fire services say fire risk is still high at this time of year.