Saving water during water shortage

Tips on saving water during water shortage while staying healthy.

Keeping safe in drought

Drought is usually defined as a prolonged dry period caused by below-average rainfall for an extended length of time. Droughts can have negative impacts on our water supply, agriculture, electricity production, and the ecosystem.

Droughts that affect the water supply can lead to water shortages. In cases of severe drought your local council will impose various water restrictions to conserve water and prevent disruptions to the supply. Water, hygiene and sanitation are issues that affect the health and wellbeing of every person and it is important that we stay safe during these events.

Drinking water

If you’re not sure whether your water is safe to drink, check with your local council that it complies with the drinking water standards for New Zealand.

We all need to drink at least 8 cups of fluid a day. In addition, use drinking water:

  • for cooking food
  • in a bowl, for washing fruit or vegetables
  • in your own cup, for cleaning teeth
  • hot, for washing dishes
  • hot, for washing hands
    • before food preparation
    • after using the toilet
    • after changing baby
    • after activities like gardening.

Don’t share hand washing water.

Water safety

Clean water is essential for drinking, food preparation, cooking and hygiene purposes and it is important to take steps to keep safe. Water that is safe to drink should be clear with no odour or funny taste.

Rainwater, bore water, rivers or streams may not be safe for drinking and will require treating or boiling before drinking. Below are some useful steps you can follow to provide safe water for your families, whānau and visitors.


  • Place water in a metal pan and bring water to a rolling boil for 1–2 minutes. Keep the water covered after boiling and allow it to cool naturally before using it. The taste will improve if the water is left to stand.
  • Electric jugs with an automatic cut-off switch can also be used as long as the jug is full. Do not hold down the switch to increase boiling time. The jug should be allowed to turn off automatically.

Disinfect using bleach

  • Add half a teaspoon of plain, unperfumed household bleach to 10 litres of water. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. Bleach used to disinfect water should not contain perfume, colour, or detergents, so always check the label before using.

More information on how to ensure your water is safe can be found at Household water supplies.

Conserving water

You can help avoid the need for water restrictions and mitigate the effects of the drought by reducing water use in your home.

  • Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth.
  • Wait until you have a full load before using the dishwasher or washing machine.
  • Take shorter showers and forgo using the bath.
  • Use a watering can to water gardens instead of a hose.

Using the shower

  • Every second day is OK – you can wash on the other day.
  • Limit time of shower, eg, 4 minutes.

Using the toilet

  • Flush after a bowel motion.
  • Close the lid after urinating, but no need to flush.

Other water supplies

Rainwater, bore water, etc – these may not be safe for drinking in areas without treated town supply. River, lake or swimming pool water can be used for:

  • washing clothes
  • washing floors
  • watering plants
  • cleaning cars
  • pouring into toilet to flush.

Do not use for drinking, brushing teeth or washing dishes.

Baby care

  • Continue to sterilise bottles etc.
  • Keep on washing nappies in the usual way.
  • If bathing baby every second day, wash face, ears, hands, bottom on the other day.

Schools, marae, rest homes, child care, etc

  • Continue to use dishwashers and washing machines.
  • Continue to use new water each time for hand washing – don’t share water.
  • Follow the hygiene practices as set out for your institution.
  • Where groups of people are gathered, take precaution for personal hygiene!

Where groups of people are gathered, don’t risk sickness by taking short cuts!

For more advice

Public health staff are available to give advice on safe ways of saving water. Contact a health protection officer at the public health unit of your local district health board or the environmental health officer at your local council.

Go to Be Water Wise to learn helpful water-saving tips and to find information on current water restrictions in your area.

Drinking-water tankers

If you wish to become a drinking-water carrier please contact the drinking-water assessor at your local district health board for information on registration and approval.

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