Level Two Water Restrictions Will Start in Sydney for the First Time Since the Millennium Drought

Sydney's dam levels are the lowest they've been since the 2000s drought.
Marissa Ciampi and Samantha Teague
Published on November 21, 2019

While the extended sunny days and warm temperatures may seem like a gift, in truth the region is also experiencing one of the most severe droughts on record. Two years on and the drought in rural New South Wales and Greater Sydney shows no sign of slowing — so the NSW Government is taking action, again.

After introducing level one water restrictions in June, it has today been announced that level two restrictions will come into effect for both residents and businesses in Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra from December 10 this year.

The last time level two water restrictions were enforced in Sydney was in 2004 (with restrictions lasting till 2009) during the Millennium Drought. At one point during the 2000s drought, Sydney's total water supply dropped to a historic low of 33.9 percent.

While Sydney's water supply isn't quite that low at the moment, the region's dam levels are currently sitting at 46 percent — a significant drop from 53.4 percent in May. Level two water restrictions are usually automatically triggered when levels dip below 40 percent, but the NSW Government has introduced them early because of the dam levels' "rapid rate of decline" and ongoing drought conditions.

"We're experiencing one of the most severe droughts on record," said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian in a statement. "And we expect introducing level two restrictions to save 78.5 gigalitres of water per year." We'll need that water, because the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting below-average rainfall and higher daytime temperatures for the remainder of 2019.

So what does this mean for Sydneysiders day-to-day? At the level two restriction level, you can only water your garden before 10am or after 4pm with smart/drip irrigation system (for a maximum of 15 minutes) or with a watering can or bucket — which means no hoses (even trigger nozzle hoses). You also can't use a hose to clean pathways, driveways or other paved areas unless it's an emergency. Buckets must be used when washing cars, too, or you can go to a commercial washing spot.

Here's the full list of what you can and can't do at this stage. Fines for not following restrictions (including current restrictions) range from $220–550.

While Sydney moves to enforce level two restrictions, some areas in regional NSW are doing it even worse. One of these is Orange, where level five water restrictions began just last month. For Orange residents, this means showering for a maximum of three minutes and watering gardens for one hour, once a week.

Level two water restrictions for Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra come into effect on Tuesday, December 10. To find out more about what you can and can't do, head to the Sydney Water website. To stay up-to-date with the state's dam levels and the ongoing drought, keep an eye on WaterNSW website and Twitter.

Published on November 21, 2019 by Marissa Ciampi
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