COASTAL areas of Southland are the driest since Environment Southland started keeping records 50 years ago.
Farmers have sold lambs as store and sent replacement stock to grazing in the face of prolonged warm temperatures and dry conditions this summer.
Most areas have recorded just 60% of the normal rainfall from December through until the end of February.
Environment Southland integration manager Nick Perham said rivers in the region are at levels usually experienced biennially.
Those on the coast are much lower and several aquifers are also exceptionally low for this time of year.
“Some rain around the coast on Saturday did provide a bit of relief for the Mokoreta River,” Perham said.
“The Waihōpai River is very low and the Mataura River continues to drop.”
Some rain is forecast for this week but he says it is unlikely to be enough to affect river flows.
“The forecast is more promising for this weekend, with around 25mm expected for the coast and 15mm inland,” he said.
“Looking further into autumn, NIWAs climate outlook for March to May indicates temperatures are likely to be above-average (65% chance).
However, rainfall is expected to be near normal (40% chance) or above normal (35% chance), which would further help the situation.
If rain doesn’t eventuate and water levels continue to drop, Environment Southland could issue a water shortage direction, restricting water takes and discharge consents.
“If the current weather continues, we could be in a situation where the water flows will be so low that they will be seriously affecting domestic water supplies, stock water and firefighting reserves,” he said.