Sydneysiders will face big fines for watering their gardens in the middle of the day or letting their taps leak, as the New South Wales government pulls the trigger earlier than usual on water restrictions.
But while the crackdown might come as a shock to city dwellers, government bodies in drought-stricken parts of the nation say that conserving water is already “a way of life” for many Australians.
From Saturday, new rules will mean that Sydney residents will be banned from using sprinklers and hoses on their lawns and gardens between 10am and 4pm.
They will also no longer be able to water down paved surfaces such as paths or driveways – a water-wasting luxury residents in other areas haven’t had for years.
In what would be the tightest restrictions in a decade, hoses must be fitted with a trigger nozzle that has an instant off switch.
The water-saving measures follow an agreement by the NSW government on Monday to introduce stage-one restrictions to help slow a rapid decline in the city’s reservoirs as the state endures ongoing drought.
Dam levels in Sydney are currently at 53.6 per cent, only slightly above the formal trigger for level-one water restrictions of 50 per cent.
But given Sydney is experiencing some of its lowest inflows into its dams since the 1940s, the state government decided to introduce the restrictions earlier than usual.
Residents who break the rules could face a $220 penalty, and businesses could be fined $550.
A new ‘way of life’
The bans may stun Sydney residents who have been used to more relaxed water rules, but elsewhere around the country restricting water has for a long time been a “way of life” – especially for Queenslanders who have halved their daily water use since 2001.
This month, almost two-thirds (65.2 per cent) of the Sunshine State was declared to be in drought due to a serious lack of rainfall across central, southern and south-east Queensland.
Local Government Association of Queensland spokesman Craig Johnstone said ever since the Millennium Drought, water restrictions in Queensland have “just been a way of life”.
The Millennium Drought lasted from 2001 to 2009 and was the worst drought recorded in Australia since European colonisation.
“There’s rarely been a major city in Queensland over the past 10 years that hasn’t had to deal with drought in some form or another,” Mr Johnstone told The New Daily.
“It seems to be a permanent condition of the state now, that large parts of it will be in drought.”
One of the worst-affected areas in Queensland is the Southern Downs region, west of the Gold Coast, where residents must abide by extreme water restrictions that ban them from watering their gardens or lawns at all times.
Mr Johnstone said the change in culture and attitudes toward water use in Queensland had been “remarkable” due to the ongoing threat of severe drought.
“Today average water use per person in south-east Queensland is about 162 litres, whereas before the big drought at the turn of the century usage was about double that,” he said.
“People are now used to conserving water in their everyday lives.”
The Bureau of Meteorology reported that March 2019 was the hottest March on record for Australia, with rainfall below average for much of Victoria.
Figures from Melbourne Water show that water storages fell to 53 per cent for the state capital in April.
The city’s four major harvesting catchments received just 54mm of rainfall in March, which is nine per cent below the 30-year average.
In Tasmania, level-two water restrictions are in place in the township of Currie as dry weather conditions increase demand on King Island’s water supply system.