Aucklanders urged to keep saving water but wash their hands

Aucklanders are being encouraged to conserve water through the coronavirus crisis, but keep washing their hands.

That’s the message from Watercare chief executive Raveen Jarduram, who says the council-owned water company is well placed to manage the crisis but wants Aucklanders to manage their water use.

However, he said the key message right now is for people to keep washing their hands for 20 seconds.

“We don’t want a reduction in water use by people not washing their hands,” Jaduram said.

He said people should still look to conserve water with lake levels at 57% from an intensely hot and dry summer, which had led to record volumes of water use.

The 57% figure is way below where Watercare wants to be, said Jaduram, who is looking forward to the winter rain, which, last year, did not arrive until August.

In the meantime, he said Aucklanders should keep conserving water and repeated the message for people to have shorter, four-minute showers and not use sprinklers to water the garden.

Jaduram said Aucklanders’ water demand is currently below 500 megalitres a day, down from the mid-500s a few weeks ago which was not sustainable.

“We are living in uncertain volatile times and we don’t know what the climate will be like and we need to begin changing our behaviours and value water more than what it is priced at,” Jaduram said.

He said Watercare had implemented incident plans for the water shortage and now the coronavirus. That had involved securing the company’s supply of chemicals for water treatment, working with other water suppliers in Australia to share resources and isolating staff into “islands” in the case of any infection.

Watercare has about 900 staff, including 80 staff running its laboratory, 100 maintenance staff, 300 staff running its water and wastewater plants and the rest billing, customer and administrative staff.

“The thing that will get us through these difficult, challenging uncertain times is people’s resilience. That is true if we are talking about challenges for water supply, challenges for health or anything else,” said Jaduram.