NSW Water Restrictions: What You Need To Know

NSW is facing a particularly bad drought period and the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) predicts this summer will only worsen conditions. In light of this tough reality, NSW’s biggest city has been placed on level 2 water restrictions with further restrictions likely for the Sydney area in the coming months. Here’s what you need to know if you live there or are planning to visit any time soon.

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What are Sydney’s water restrictions?

As of 10 December 2019, Sydney, Illawarra and the Blue Mountains region has been placed on level 2 water restrictions due to plummeting dam levels and a lack of rain to replenish them. This means a number of rules will now apply to water usage on the affected areas and not obeying could mean huge fines. To give a bit more perspective, the dam levels in the Greater Sydney area sit at around 44.7 per cent as of Friday 13 December.

Some of the most important new rules include:

  • You can only use a watering can or bucket to water your garden before 10am and after 4pm.
  • You can only use drip irrigation or smart watering systems for a maximum of 15 mins a day per watering zone, before 10am and after 4pm.
  • You can only top up an existing pool or spa, using a hose fitted with a trigger nozzle, watering can or bucket for a maximum of 15 minutes a day. You can only do this to replace water lost through evaporation, not to replace water deliberately removed from the pool or spa.
  • You can only wash your vehicles with a bucket and sponge ⁠— not with a hose.
  • You need a permit to fill new or renovated pools and spas that hold more than 500 L.

Check out Sydney Water’s site for a full overview of the rules.

It’s important to note that there are no restrictions on firefighting efforts of which are needed for much of the state as fires continue to ravage homes and bushland. The following water sources are also free to be used as you regularly would, unless stated otherwise.

  • Recycled water (supplied in some parts of Sydney from purple pipes)
  • Greywater (water that’s collected after being used in washing machines, sinks and showers etc)
  • Rainwater (as long as the tank/dam isn’t topped up from, or switched to, the drinking water supply)
  • Bore water (some government restrictions apply)
  • River water (you need to have a licence)

What happens if I don’t obey those new restrictions?

Big fines will be given to anyone found to be disobeying restrictions with individuals being slapped with $220 while offending businesses can get $550 fines.

If you suspect someone is wantonly wasting water, you can also report them to Sydney Water and a Community Water Officer will follow up the case and fine them if it’s proven.

How can I help save water?

Sydney Water has provided a number of tips to help you reduce your water consumption over the summer. Some of these tips include:

  • Thawing frozen foods in the fridge or microwave instead of under running water
  • Use the fan setting instead of cooling feature if you have air conditioning
  • Sacrificing your precious baths for a shower instead
  • Setting an alarm for your showers
  • Don’t leave the tap running while you’re brushing your teeth
  • Put a bucket in the shower to capture run off water and then use it for your plants
  • Washing your hair in the sink instead of the shower
  • If you drop ice cubes on the floor, put them in your pot plants instead of the sink

How long will the restrictions last?

It’s hard to know or give a definite timeline but it’s expected conditions will only get worse in the coming months. In fact, NSW’s Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey has said she expects level three water restrictions will have to be put in place by March 2020 if conditions continue to worsen.

“The Metropolitan water plan has level three restrictions at around 30 per cent which in current inflows and outflows that would be around March next year,” Minster Pavey said.

Sydney, along with much of Australia’s east coast, faced level three restrictions during the Millennium drought between 2005 and 2009 when levels at Warragamba dam, the region’s primary reservoir, hit record lows of under 33 per cent full.

If the trends continue, expect the restrictions to become the norm for the foreseeable future.

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