What do Sydney water restrictions mean for the Hawkesbury?

WATER restrictions are now in place across Greater Sydney, but what does it mean for the Hawkesbury?

The Sydney Water website states: "Water restrictions only apply to drinking water. They do not apply to recycled water, greywater, rainwater, bore water or to water from any other source."

But while some local residents will not be affected by the Level 1 water restrictions, the rules provide a timely reminder for all residents to save water - and money.

According to Sydney Water, more than 85 per cent of Sydney's water supply relies on rain, meaning that water is in short supply during prolonged droughts.

"Water restrictions limit how and when we use drinking water outdoors and help reduce demand when we're not getting enough rain," the website states.

"Water restrictions apply to everyone in Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra. This includes both residents and businesses.

"If we all do our bit and save a little, it will make a big difference across Greater Sydney."

How it happened

Dam levels are currently sitting at a little over 50 per cent. This is the first time in a decade that Sydney has introduced water restrictions, and many people are wondering how it got this bad.

Stage 1 water restrictions apply to the water being used outside - including on your garden and washing your car.

While the restrictions are now in place, there is a three-month grace period to allow people to adjust to the restrictions, before fines start to apply. These will be introduced on September 1 this year, to the tune of $220 for individuals, and $550 for businesses who don't follow the rules.

Dr Ian Wright, senior lecturer in environmental science at the School of Science and Health, Western Sydney University, Hawkesbury Campus, welcomes the decision by the NSW Government, saying it is "an important step to conserve Sydney's remaining water reserves".

"Much of south-eastern Australia is suffering from a severe drought. Sydney is not immune. In just 2 years our water storage levels have fallen from more than 95 per cent full in May 2017 to 53.5 per cent in May 2019. The scale of this steep decline in Sydney's water storages is without precedence," he said.

"All of Sydney need to work together to conserve water. We don't know how long this drought will remain."

Dr Wright told the Gazette these figures indicate "the most extraordinary decline in our water storage in modern history".

"We have lost so much, so quickly," he said.

"We have more people [than 2017], we are using too much per person, and it's not raining enough in the catchments."

Are lower rain falls a sign of climate change? "There is very little doubt in Victoria that rainfall is on a much lower trend. For Melbourne, their catchment flows are 36 per cent down on the long-term average."

Who it affects

Dr Wright reckons the current water restrictions come as a timely reminder not just to those on town water, but to those using rain water tanks, too.

"Not everyone in the Hawkesbury will be linked up to the water supply - a fair chunk of [people reading this] will rely on water tanks. It probably really irritates them to hear Sydney-siders complaining about water restrictions," he said.

"But a truckload of water is so expensive, so rain is lovely for people on tank water, too, because it's been dry for so long."

When he said before that Sydney was not "immune", he meant the Hawkesbury, as well - including those on tank and bore water.

His number-one tip for saving water is to first become aware of your water consumption.

"Look at your water bill and it will tell you how much you've used over the last quarter. It will give you a read-out of how many litres per day your property has used on average," he said.

Dr Wright's household of three people used on average 107 litres per person, per day, during 2018, he said.

But the question is, how much should we be using?

The fact is, there isn't any guidance about how much Sydney-siders should be using. "It drives me insane," said Dr Wright.

"Melbourne has a target; they advise all their residents to use less than, on average, 155 litres [per person, per day].

"In Sydney we used on average 210 litres per day, averaged out over 2018, which is kind of alarming.

"That gave us a massive thirst, and we shot over the highest estimate of planning the sustainability of our long-term water supply."

Melbourne didn't meet their 2018 target of 155 litres - they came in at 161. Dr Wright reckons Sydney should have a target, and, like Melbourne, it should be around the 150-litre mark.

Saving water isn't just about making sure there is enough to go around - it's also about saving money.

In Sydney, we pay around $2.28 per 1000 litres of water. Interestingly, we don't get charged more if we use this precious resource excessively; in Canberra for instance, water prices can shoot up to 70 per cent higher if usage becomes excessive.

"The two big things that people can really affect are how much time they spend in the shower, and how watering their gardens," Dr Wright said.

"Roughly 30 per cent of water is spent on gardening, watering lawns and plants. The new restrictions prohibit watering in the middle of the day, so a simply thing you can do it to put mulch on your garden, because that helps hold in as much water as possible.

"A dripping tap can cost a lot of money, particularly if it's hot water. Also, if you're waiting for the hot water to kick in, fill up a container with the cold water and use it later.

"Another thing to watch is when you replace a water appliance, look for the water efficiency stars. The Australian standards have improved out of sight with how little water they use now."

And something he does personally? "Be proud of driving a dirty car!"

Member for Hawkesbury Robyn Preston said "we're seeing some of the lowest inflows into our dams since the 1940s, so it's vital we take early and decisive action".

"The Bureau of Meteorology's latest forecast is predicting below-average rainfall and higher temperatures for June to August, which are key drivers of stronger water demand. Water restrictions are an important drought response because they target the outdoor water use of all households," she said.

Under the water restrictions residents and businesses are not able to: use standard sprinklers and watering systems at any time; leave hoses running unattended; wash vehicles and buildings with a hose that isn't fitted with a trigger nozzle or high pressure cleaning equipment; clean hard surfaces such as paths, driveways and paved areas with a hose as part of general clean.

For full restrictions visit lovewater.sydney.