Water restrictions in Australia
Water restrictions have been enacted in many cities and regions in Australia, which is the Earth's driest inhabited continent, in response to chronic water shortages resulting from the widespread drought. Depending upon the location, these can include restrictions on watering lawns, using sprinkler systems, washing vehicles, hosing pavement, refilling swimming pools, etc. Overpopulation, evidence of drying climates, coupled with corresponding reductions in the supply of drinking water has led various state governments to consider alternative water sources to supplement existing sources, and to implement "water inspectors" who can issue penalties to those who waste water. As of July 2007, some areas and towns have no water restrictions, including the Northern Territory, Regional Tasmania, Newcastle, Bathurst and Dubbo. There are also a few parts of Australia where the water storage levels are at or close to 100%, such as Taree. Many states describe the different levels of water restrictions in terms of "stages": starting at Stage 1, for the least restrictive, going up as far as Stage 8. The highest level reached in the current drought has been stage 7 for Kingaroy. There are different definitions given to each "stage" in different States.
- 1 Water restrictions by state or territory
- 2 Water storage levels
- 3 Criticism
- 4 See also
- 5 References
Water restrictions by state or territory
Australian Capital Territory
|Stage 1||Stage 2||Stage 3||Stage 4|
|Sprinklers and irrigation:||Alternate days, 7-10am & 7-10pm||Drippers only, 7-10am & 7-10pm||No reticulation|
|Hand-watering gardens and lawns:||No restrictions||Alternate days, 7-10am & 7-10pm||No watering lawns; watering plants alternate days, 7-10am & 7-10pm||Greywater only|
|Swimming pools:||No emptying or filling; Topping-up allowed||No topping-up, emptying or filling|
|Car washing:||Once a week, or at commercial car wash||Once a month, or at commercial car wash||Only at commercial car washes||No car washing|
|Window cleaning:||Only with bucket or high-pressure, low-volume cleaner||No window cleaning|
Canberra was subject to Stage 1 restrictions from 1 November 2005, which were increased to Stage 2 after a year on 1 November 2006. The continuing drought led to a further increase to Stage 3 from 16 December 2006; the restrictions were maintained at Stage 3 throughout 2007 and 2008. From 1 November 2010 Canberra moved to Permanent Water Saving Rules due to heavy rain bringing water storages close to capacity.
New South Wales
The different classification levels of water restrictions in New South Wales vary widely, and are set by the different authorities responsible for water throughout the state.
|Level 1||Level 2||Level 3|
|Sprinklers and irrigation:||No sprinklers at any time; drippers only or at a certain time|
|Hand-watering gardens and lawns:||no weekly limit,
||3 times weekly,
before 10am or after 4pm
|2 times weekly,|
before 10am or after 4pm
|Swimming pools:||No restrictions||No filling pools over 10,000L without permit|
|Hard surfaces:||No hosing hard surfaces (paths, driveways, cars, floors and buildings)|
|Wikinews has related news: New South Wales water supply problems continue|
Falling dam levels prompted Sydney Water to impose Level 1 water restrictions on the Sydney area from 1 October 2003. When these restrictions failed to stem the reduction in the city's water supplies as a result of continuing drought, and with dam levels dropping below 50 per cent, Level 2 water restrictions were introduced from 1 June 2004. Further reductions in dam levels to below 40 per cent of capacity led to an increase to Level 3 water restrictions from 1 June 2005. Level 3 water restrictions were in place as of February 2008. Since June 2009, though, Sydney Water replaced water restrictions with Water Wise Rules. The Rules include:
- All hoses must now have a trigger nozzle.
- Hand held hoses, sprinklers and watering systems may be used only before 10 am and after 4 pm on any day - to avoid the heat of the day
- No hosing of hard surfaces such as paths and driveways. Washing vehicles is allowed.
- Fire hoses may be used for fire fighting activities only.
To deal with its water shortage, New South Wales has followed the same path as Western Australia, announcing a new desalination plant for Sydney to cost $1.3 billion. The Sydney Desalination Plant is to be turned on when Sydney's drinking water level reaches 60% capacity, and water restrictions will be in place when drinking water reaches 50% capacity.
Sydney Water has imposed fines of $200 for violations of the rules for individuals, $500 for businesses, and $2,200 for water theft. Rules are enforced by Sydney Water staff through random checks.
As different towns in regional New South Wales take their drinking water from different sources, different levels of water restrictions apply. The levels or stages which apply in certain towns are as follows:
- Albury – no restrictions
- Armidale – Level 3 from 23 April 2019
- Bathurst – no restrictions
- Cobar – stage 5
- Dubbo – no restrictions
- Gosford – stage 4 from 1 October 2006
- Goulburn had Stage 5 water restrictions imposed from 1 October 2004, and went on to win a National Water Conservation Award for Excellence due to the water which had been conserved. From 5 July 2007, Goulburn relaxed its water restrictions to Level 3.
- Griffith – stage 2 introduced on 27 November 2007
- Leeton – level 3 introduced on 9 October 2007 but lowered to level 2 on 1 November 2008
- Orange – level 5a from early 2010
- Port Macquarie – stage 1 from September 2006
- Taree – summer water saving restrictions
- Wagga Wagga – Permanent Water Conservation Measure 
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (October 2014)
Currently, no water restrictions apply in Darwin.
Some of the details of the different stages of water restrictions which apply in Queensland for the residential sector are as follows:
|Stage 1||Stage 2||Stage 3||Stage 4||Stage 5||Stage 6||Stage 7|
|Reticulation sprinklers:||3 days/week||No sprinklers||No external water use without permit|
|Sprinkler times:||4–8am & 4–8pm|
|Hose watering of gardens:||3 days/week||No hosing|
|Hose watering times:||4–8am & 4–8pm||Before 7am & after 7pm|
|Bucket/watering can watering times:||Any time||3 days/week;
4–8am & 4–8pm
|No watering lawns;|
Otherwise 3 days/week, 4–7pm
|Pool filling:||Any time||Requires approval|
|Topping-up pools:||4–8am & 4–8pm,
|4–8am & 4–8pm,
|Hosing hard surfaces:||Prohibited at all times|
|Car/window washing:||Hose or bucket||Bucket only||Bucket only, to wash mirrors, lights & windows|
Although some regions of Queensland have had traditionally high rainfalls, some regions of Queensland have been subject to the toughest water restrictions in place in Australia. The highest level of water restrictions reached the drought was stage 7 for Kingaroy. Toowoomba, Brisbane and South East Queensland reached Level 6 restrictions.
On 13 May 2005, 13 local councils in southeast Queensland, including those in Brisbane, agreed to impose Stage 1 water restrictions, due to drying dams. These restrictions were increased to Stage 2 from 3 October 2005, which at the time were described as the "toughest water restrictions in southeast Queensland's history", except the Gold Coast which had been on Stage 5 restrictions since 2004. Stage 3 water restrictions were imposed on the region from 13 June 2006 amid projections that water storage levels would drop to 5% within 26 months. Water restrictions continued to increase, to Stage 4 from 1 November 2006, stage 5 from 10 April 2007, and up to Stage 6 from 23 November 2007.
Other towns and regions of Queensland are subject to different levels of water restrictions, as set out below:
- Cairns – Level 1 restrictions from October 2002 till about January 2004.
- Gold Coast – stage 6 from 23 November 2007, stage 5 from 10 April 2007, stage 4 from 1 November 2006. The Hinze Dam, which is the Gold Coast's main water supply reached 100% in January 2008 and the coast now has no water restrictions.
- Kingaroy – Stage 7 from 1 October 2007
- Toowoomba – stage 6 from 23 November 2007, stage 5 from 26 September 2006. In 2006, the town council proposed the use of recycled wastewater to supplement town water from dams, however the scheme was rejected by the town's population and the town has since resorted to drilling artesian and sub-artesian bores as an alternative source of drinking water.
- Townsville – stage 2 from 15 November 2006, stage 1 from 12 February 2007
Source: Queensland Water Restrictions, Queensland Water Commission
The different levels of residential water restrictions which have been applied to different regions of South Australia by SA Water are as follows:
|Permanent Water Conservation Measures||Eyre Peninsula||Level 2||Level 3|
|Reticulation sprinklers:||5pm–10am (6pm–10am in DST)||6pm–8am (8pm–8am in DST)||8pm–8am, 3 days/week. Sporting grounds and public facilities 2 days/week.||Prohibited|
|Hand-held hose watering and drippers:||Any time||1 day/week with trigger nozzle, 6–9am or 5–8pm|
|Bucket/watering cans:||Any time|
|Swimming pools and Spas:||No restrictions||No filling or emptying without permit. New pools or spas must have a cover.|
|Fountains and ponds:||No restrictions||Must not be operated and can not be topped up unless they support fish.|
|Car washing:||Bucket, commercial car wash or hose with trigger nozzle only||Bucket or commercial car wash only|
|Hard surfaces:||No washing or hosing down hard surfaces|
Different water restrictions levels apply to different parts of the state, depending upon the source of drinking water used in that region. SA Water have produced a map showing the current areas of water restrictions.
Areas using Murray River water
Adelaide and much of south-eastern South Australia takes its drinking water from the Murray River. Permanent water conservation measures were put into place in this region in 2003, and as a result of the most severe drought to hit the region since the 1940s, Level 2 water restrictions were imposed from 22 October 2006 on those areas (including metropolitan Adelaide) which use water from the Murray River. Even lower inflows to the Murray River over the course of 2006 led to the even tougher Level 3 water restrictions being imposed on the region from 1 January 2007, which remain in place.
The Eyre Peninsula draws most of its drinking water from underground basins, which progressively became depleted through drought and high consumption, prompting the State Government to introduce water restrictions on the entire region from 6 December 2002, apart from Whyalla. The water restrictions for the peninsula remain in force as of 2008.
Conversely, the areas in the south east of the State, south of the town of Keith, are subject to the permanent water conservation measures.
Other areas in the state are not subject to water restrictions. These areas include Murray Mallee, areas north of Port Augusta, Kangaroo Island, Cockburn, Hawker, Melrose, Ororoo, Parachilna, Quorn, Warooka, Wilmington, Terowie, Yunta, Olary and Manna Hill.
The different levels of residential water restrictions which have been applied to different regions of South Australia by SA Water are as follows:
Permanent Water Conservation Measures Eyre Peninsula Level 2 Level 3 Reticulation sprinklers: 5pm–10am (6pm–10am in DST) 6pm–8am (8pm–8am in DST) 8pm–8am, 3 days/week Prohibited Hand-held hose watering and drippers: Any time 1 day/week with trigger nozzle, 6–9am or 5–
Usually, there are no water restrictions for domestic consumption.
Periodically, however, restrictions will be placed on how water can be used in domestic, commercial or rural areas. Examples of such restrictions are:
- watering with a hose is permitted but not using a fixed sprinkler system,
- being able to use sprinkler systems only during certain hours,
- the initial wetting and final rinsing of a car may be done with the hose but washing must be done using a bucket,
- washing a car is permitted using a bucket of water but not using the hose,
- watering of sports grounds allowed only during certain hours,
- watering stock is acceptable but not irrigating.
One purpose of such restrictions is to keep the dam levels up and ensure adequate water pressure for the fire department's needs in the event of fires.
The different stages of water restrictions which apply in different areas of Victoria are based upon the Victorian Uniform Drought Water Restriction Guidelines, however they have been modified by the inclusion of a "Stage 3a", to reduce the likelihood of needing to impose Stage 4 restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne.
|Stage 1||Stage 2||Stage 3||Stage 3a||Stage 4|
|Watering lawns:||Manual: Any time, any day with the use of a trigger-nozzle hose or bucket. Automatic: 6am–10am and 6pm–10pm on alternating days||Watering lawns is banned||All outside watering banned|
|Reticulation watering days:||Alternating days||Drippers only, 2 days/week|
|Manual reticulation:||6–8am & 8–10pm||6–8am|
|Hose watering/ buckets/ watering cans:||Any time||2 days/week, 6–8am & 8–10pm||2 days/week, 6–8am|
|Hosing hard surfaces:||Banned at all times|
|Car washing:||Bucket/high pressure cleaner or trigger nozzle hose||Bucket/high pressure cleaner only||Buckets only to clean windows, mirrors and lights|
|Swimming pools:||Filling or topping up pools/spas up to 2000 L permitted. Over 2000 L, permit required||No filling|
The status of water restrictions in different regions of Victoria is as set out below:
- Bairnsdale – now off water restrictions and on permanent water saving rules as of 24 August 2007
- Ballarat – stage 3 from 1 January 2010, stage 1 from 1 August 2010.
- Bendigo area – stage 3 from 1 January 2009
- Broadford – stage 4 from 1 February 2007
- Geelong – stage 3 from March 2010, stage 1 from 3 October 2010
- Central Gippsland – All Towns on Permanent Water Saving Rules
- Coongulla & Glenmaggie – stage 4 from 24 February 2007
- Horsham – Stage 1 from 14 October 2009
- Mansfield area – stage 4 for Mansfield from 16 December 2006; other areas nearby on stage 1 and 2
- Melbourne – stage 1 from 28 August 2006, stage 2 from 1 November 2006, stage 3 from 1 January 2007, Stage 3a from 1 April 2007, Stage 3 from 2 April 2010, stage 2 from 1 September 2010. As of 1 December 2012, Melbourne was taken off water restriction stages, but new permanent water restrictions were implemented.
- Mildura – now off water restrictions and on permanent water saving rules as of 3 October 2010
- Omeo – stage 2 from 11 December 2006
- North east region – Bright reverted to stage 2 and Springhurst reverted to stage 1 on 10 September 2007. Most of the Murray towns went to Stage 4 on 1 July 2007 (e.g. Wodonga, Yarrawonga, Rutherglen etc.), and on 11 July 2007 Devenish, St James and Tungamah went to stage 3. As of 2010, most towns/cities in the North East have moved to Permanent Water Saving Rules thanks to flooding rain over winter and spring.
The different stages of water restrictions which can currently be applied in Western Australia are as follows:
|Stage 1||Stage 2||Stage 3||Stage 4||Stage 5||Stage 6||Stage 7|
|Reticulation sprinklers:||Daily||Alternate days||3 times/week||Twice weekly||Once weekly||No sprinklers|
|Sprinkler times:||Before 9.00am or after 6.00pm|
|Hose watering of gardens:||Any time||No hose watering|
|Swimming pools:||No restriction||No over-filling||No topping-up||No filling|
|Car washing:||No restriction||Bucket only|
Water restrictions have been employed in various Western Australian towns when poor rainfall has led to water shortages. For instance, in the summer of 1977-1978, Perth was subject to a total sprinkler ban. Newman and Nullagine experienced water restrictions from 1991 and 1992 onwards as the result of drought. Similarly, the resort towns of Yallingup and Dunsborough experienced water restrictions in 1997 during a heatwave, and Kalgoorlie-Boulder had temporary water restrictions imposed during 1998 due to shortages in its reservoirs (which contain water pumped through the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme).
A Stage 1 ban on using reticulation sprinklers between 9.00am and 6.00pm was imposed on Perth residents in 1996, and remains in place to this day. This was the first water restriction imposed on the state's most populous city since the total sprinkler ban in 1978. From September 2001, users of the Integrated Water Supply Scheme (covering Perth, its surrounds and towns on the Goldfields pipeline) were subject to Stage 4 restrictions, only permitted to use reticulation sprinklers two days per week, according to a roster.
The town of Northampton in the Mid-West encountered a water shortage in 2006 where its underground aquifer could not meet demand. Stage 5 watering restrictions were imposed, and the Water Corporation resorted to carting tankers of water to the town to maintain the supply.
On 1 October 2007, water restrictions were expanded to cover the entire state, including those towns serviced by utilities other than the Water Corporation. Under the new system, all areas of the state in the region south of Kalbarri and Kalgoorlie (including Perth and most of the state's population) which use scheme water are subject to Stage 4 restrictions. Areas north of the dividing line are subject to Stage 2 restrictions. Furthermore, whereas the water restrictions had previously only restricted the use of mains water to water gardens and lawns by sprinkler, under the new water restrictions unlicensed bore operators in Perth and its surrounds are restricted to watering their gardens three times per week. This was to slow the depletion of underground aquifers from which Perth sources much of its drinking water.
Efforts are being made to secure alternative water sources to ease water shortages in the Integrated Water Supply Scheme. Integral to the Government's strategy is the construction of desalination plants to service Perth. One has already been constructed in Kwinana, which supplies 17% of the city's water consumption and is the largest desalination plant in both the Southern and Eastern hemispheres. A second desalination plant near Binningup was completed in 2011. A trial has also been announced to treat wastewater and pump it into underground aquifers to undergo natural filtration as it returns to the dwindling groundwater supply.
Water storage levels
|Location||Dec 2005||Sep 2006||Oct 2006||Nov 2006||Dec 2006||Jan 2007||Feb 2007||Mar 2007||Apr 2007||May 2007||Jun 2007||Jul 2007||Aug 2007||Sep 2007||Oct 2007||Nov 2007||Dec 2007||Jan 2008||Feb 2008||Mar 2008|
Water restrictions have been criticised for hampering the economy and the lifestyles of people. The National Water Commission chief has argued that Australia needs a source of water that is independent of the rainfall. Water desalination is touted as the solution for potentially unlimited water use. Former Australian Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull says that it does not make sense to have permanent water restrictions just as there are no electricity restrictions.
- Climate change in Australia
- Drought in Australia
- Peak water
- Water data transfer format
- Water supply and sanitation in Australia
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The sprinkler ban was introduced in 1996, the first restriction on Perth's water since the summer of 1977-78.
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But Minister Assisting the Treasurer Nick Griffiths said a total ban - not seen since 1977 - would be put in place only if people were not able to save water.
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One-day-a-week sprinkler restrictions have already been imposed in Northampton, in the Mid-West
- Jerrard, Suellen (18 December 2006). "Country in crisis as water tanks run dry". The West Australian. p. 13.
The Water Corporation has started carting water to Northampton, one of the areas hardest hit by the drought, because its ground water aquifer could not meet demand.
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