You Could Be Fined For Watering Your Garden From Tomorrow

People caught using a sprinkler or watering their lawn at midday will soon have to fork out at least $220, as new penalties for water use kick in across parts of the state of NSW.

From Sunday, community water officers will have the authority to issue $220 and $550 fines to individuals and businesses who breach water restrictions in Sydney.

Level one restrictions have been in place since June 1, amid a crippling drought that continues to ravage the state, and much of the country.

Under the city's 'Metropolitan Water Plan', the restrictions are meant to come into effect when total dam storage levels drop below 50 percent.

But the state government brought them in early, when levels reached 53.2 percent -- and were dropping at an average of 0.4 percent each week.

Fines will kick in from September 1 in Sydney. Photo: Getty

At the time, the state's water minister Melinda Pavey said Sydney was experiencing some of the lowest inflows into its dams since the 1940s.

A spokesperson for Sydney Water told 10 daily a three-month grace period was designed to allow the community -- especially businesses -- to get used to restrictions and apply for exemptions. That period runs out on Sunday.

READ MORE: Water Restrictions Start Today For The First Time In 10 Years

"From this Sunday [September 1], restrictions will be enforced by our Community Water Officers who have authority to issue fines," the spokesperson said, adding officers are "out there to educate the community".

"The last thing we want is for hardworking families and businesses to be penalised, which is why we’re urging everyone to follow the restrictions.

"It’s up to all of us to do the right thing to save water."

What Could I Be Fined For?

Level one restrictions include making the previously voluntary 'Water Wise Rules' into compulsory ones. You can now be fined for not following them.

The rules include:

  • Only being able to water lawns and gardens with a hose fitted with a trigger nozzle before 10am and after 4pm;
  • Banning water sprinklers and watering systems, except for drip-irrigation or 'smart' water systems;
  • Restricting the use of hoses on hard surfaces like paths and driveways to only that for safety, health and emergency situations;
  • Washing cars or boats over a lawn when possible, and only using buckets or hoses with trigger nozzles;
You can only water gardens using a hose with a trigger nozzle. Image: Getty

The restrictions, and subsequent fines, apply to Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra, and largely target outdoor use.

Exclusions include bore water use and where there is "no practical alternative", while businesses are able to apply for specific exclusions through Sydney Water.

What Could Be Next?

Last week, Sydney dam levels dropped below 50 percent, reportedly for the first time since 2004.

On Thursday, current levels sat at 48.8 percent, down 0.2 percent.

According to Sydney Water, levels have dropped 50 percent faster than in than in the Millennium Drought, as rainfall across Greater Sydney remains below average.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology's spring climate outlook, a drier than average season is forecast for most of the country, with low streamflows in most locations between August and October.

"We are experiencing one of the worst droughts in living memory. Our state is under pressure, city and country," Minister Pavey said on Sunday.

Under Sydney's water plan, the city would move to level-two water restrictions when dam levels reached 40 percent, but that would be a decision for the state government.

READ MORE: Water Restrictions May Not Fix Our Drinking Problems This Time

READ MORE: Sydney Water Levels Are Dropping, But Is There A Backup 

Meanwhile, Pavey said Sydney's desalination plant in Kurnell reached full production at the end of July -- a few months ahead of schedule.

It is now producing an average of 250 million litres a day, which is approximately 15 percent of Sydney's supply.

The minister said work was underway on preliminary plans to expand the plant to ensure "we will be ready to act immediately to increase water supply".

Featured image: Getty