Starting on June 1st, and for the first time in a decade, water restrictions will apply to residents and businesses in Sydney and the surrounding Blue Mountains and Illawarra regions. Water availability is in short supply due to a prolonged drought, ongoing since mid 2017. The water levels in Greater Sydney’s 11 reservoirs are at 53,5%, and have been falling at an average of 0.04% per week, reports The Guardian.
Level 1 restrictions would usually be triggered when reservoir levels fall below 50%, but they have been activated before because levels are falling very fast. The Metropolitan Water Plan for Greater Sydney contemplates a portfolio of water supply and drought response measures. These include Water Wise Rules, which are simple, common sense actions about outdoor water use, which up to now they were voluntary, becoming mandatory as of June 1st. The plan contemplates more restrictive measures to be triggered if reservoir levels fall below the 40% and 30% thresholds.
Level 1 restrictions will entail the following:
- You can water lawns and gardens using a hose as long as it has trigger nozzle, before 10am or after 4pm. Watering cans, drip irrigation systems or other water efficient systems are also allowed.
- You can wash vehicles and garbage bins using a hose as long as it has a trigger nozzle, or you can use a bucket or high pressure cleaning equipment.
- You can top up an existing pool, or fill a new pool but you need a permit if it contains more than 10,000 litres of water, and a pool cover to prevent evaporation loses.
- You cannot hose hard surfaces such as driveways, except for health, safety or emergency reasons.
These apply to drinking water only; those using recycled water, grey water, rainwater, and bore water are exempt from the restrictions. Sydney Water outlines the full details and exemptions.
Interestingly, last month a survey among Sydney residents carried out Sydney Water found that over 60% of them were not even aware of the present drought, according to The Guardian. As Ian Wright indicated in his SWM blog a few days ago, although Sydney residents consume less water than before the millennium drought, they use up to 30% more water than residents of Melbourne, so there is room for water saving by lowering residential consumption. In fact the city uses far more water than predicted by experts in the Metropolitan Water Plan, and Dr Wright points to low water prices and price schemes that do not penalize higher water users as potential reasons.