Water restrictions

Level 2 restrictions apply

From 1 March, Level 1 water restrictions will apply. In the meantime, Level 2 water restrictions are still in force. 

Water restrictions target the outdoor use of drinking water, but there are some indoor water uses that are subject to restrictions, such as filling indoor swimming pools and operating car wash businesses in shopping centre car parks.

The restrictions apply to everyone in Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra. This includes all residents and businesses. If we all do our bit and save a little, together we'll make a big difference.

What's allowed under level 2 water restrictions? 

Residents and businesses

You can:

Tick icon - large use any available water source to fight housefires or bushfires that threaten property 

Tick icon - large do whatever is necessary to prepare your property if it is under imminent threat from bushfire

Tick icon - large test fire services

Tick icon - large use water to clean up after a fire threat has passed, eg you can use a hose to remove fire retardant materials if necessary.
 
You can't:

Cross icon no background 
use a fire hose to clean public amenities or other hard surfaces. Fire hoses can only be used for firefighting, testing and related activities.

Fighting fires

You may use any water source available when your property is under threat from fire.

The following water sources are not affected by water restrictions. However, many of these water sources have other controls on how they can be used and it's still important to use all water wisely.

What's excluded from the water restrictions?

  • Recycled water (supplied in some parts of Sydney from purple pipes).
  • Greywater (water that's collected after being used in washing machines, sinks and showers etc).
  • Rainwater (as long as the tank/dam isn't topped up from, or switched to, the drinking water supply).
  • Bore water (some government restrictions apply).
  • River water (you need to have a licence).
Recycled water meter

If we supply you with recycled water through purple pipes, it's excluded from the restrictions. 

Residents and businesses

You can water lawns, gardens and sports fields before 10 am and after 4 pm using:

Tick icon - large a watering can or bucket

Tick icon - large drip irrigation systems controlled by a timer for a maximum of 15 minutes a day per watering zone 

Tick icon - large a compliant 'smart watering system' that includes automated weather adjustment, a rain sensor or a soil moisture sensor for a maximum of 15 minutes a day per watering zone

What is a smart watering system?
A ‘smart watering system’ is a watering system that is controlled by a timer that automatically adjusts its watering pattern based on changes to weather and/or plant water demand using inputs from sensors and/or external weather services. These systems can have different types of head attachments, eg drippers, micro sprayers etc

During water restrictions, you can only use compliant smart watering systems. These must be fixed and permanent (you can't move them around your garden like a sprinkler attached to a hose) with either single or multiple watering zones.





You can't:

Cross icon no background use a standard sprinkler, soaker hose, weeping hose or mist sprayer at any time - including when these devices are attached to a smart watering system

Cross icon no background water your garden with a hose, even if it has a trigger nozzle or a tap timer attached
 
Cross icon no background leave hoses and taps running unattended

Cross icon no background allow water to run off on to hard surfaces, such as paths or roadways

Cross icon no background put the sprinklers on for children to play under.

What can you do if you have a medical condition and can't follow the restrictions?
If you have a medical condition or some other special circumstance that means you can’t carry a watering can or bucket or if you have a carer who can only help you at certain times of the day, you can apply for a special exemption or call us on 13 20 92 to discuss your individual needs.

Find out more about special exemptions for residential customers.

Apply here for a special exemption     
 

Councils and government

You can water public lawns and gardens  of any size:

Tick icon - large before 10 am and after 4 pm

Tick icon - large for a maximum of 30 minutes a week per area

Tick icon - large using a hose fitted with a trigger nozzle.

You can water continuous areas of public lawn and gardens, covering areas  greater than 30 m2:

Tick icon - large for a maximum of 30 minutes a week per area

Tick icon - large before 10 am and after 4 pm

Tick icon - large using sprinklers or smart watering systems.
 
You can't:

Cross icon no background leave hoses and taps running unattended

Cross icon no background allow water to run off on to hard surfaces, such as paths or roadways.
Watering sports fields
We understand that sports fields are an important part of community life. Exemptions are available to maintain sports fields and playing surfaces. We'll consider each application on a case-by-case basis and conditions will apply.

If you don't have a current exemption permit, you'll need to Apply for a water restrictions exemption for your business. 

 
Watering garden

You can water your garden using a watering can or bucket before 10 am and after 4 pm.

Residents and businesses

You can water new turf using:

Tick icon - large a hand-held hose fitted with a trigger nozzle for up to four weeks from the delivery date, following the watering plan below. This applies to areas of any size

Tick icon - large sprinklers and watering systems for up to four weeks from the delivery date, following the watering plan below. This only applies if you have a continuous area of new turf larger than    30 m 2.

Please keep the delivery docket showing the delivery date in case one of our Community Water Officers asks for 'proof of purchase'.

Watering plan for new turf

  • Week 1:  Water up to three times a day, for a maximum of 30 minutes each session, at any time of day.
  • Week 2 & 3: Water up to two times a day, for a maximum of 15 minutes each session. You can only water before 10 am and after 4 pm.
  • Week 4: Water before 10 am and after 4 pm, for a maximum of 30 minutes, on no more than three days during that week.
After week 4, you can only water your turf following the water restrictions. This means you can water before 10 am and after 4 pm with a bucket or watering can, or with a smart irrigation or drip irrigation system for a maximum of 15 minutes.

Turf NSW recommends watering established turf no more than once a week.  


What can you do if your turf isn't established after four weeks?

If you can still pull the turf layer away from the ground after four weeks, the roots aren't established yet and you may need to apply for an exemption to continue watering outside the restrictions.

Apply here     

You can't:
Cross icon no background use a hose fitted with a trigger nozzle, sprinkler or soaker hose after the four-week watering plan, unless you have an exemption permit

Cross icon no background leave hoses and taps running unattended

Cross icon no background water the area around new turf or allow water to run off onto hard surfaces.


New turf

You can water new turf using a hand-held hose fitted with a trigger nozzle for up to four weeks from the delivery date.

Residents and businesses

You can:

Tick icon - large top up an existing pool or spa, using a hose fitted with a trigger nozzle, watering can or bucket for a maximum of 15 minutes a day. You can only do this to replace water lost through evaporation, not to replace water deliberately removed from the pool or spa

Tick icon - large fill children's pools that hold less than 500 litres of water.

You can't:
Cross icon no background fill a new or renovated pool or spa (that holds more than 500 litres) with drinking water unless you have a pool/spa filling permit and an approved pool cover or lockable spa cover in use

Cross icon no background leave hoses and taps running unattended

Cross icon no background use water toys that connect to a hose, such as a 'slip n' slide'

Cross icon no background allow children to play under sprinklers. 

How can you apply for a pool permit?
For existing pools:
We'll only approve a permit to empty and refill a pool where it's unavoidable. We’ll consider each application individually, based on your reason to refill your pool. You must apply for your permit BEFORE you remove any water from the pool. If you're partly filling or emptying your own pool or spa for maintenance cleaning or renovation, you can apply for a pool or spa filling permit. As spas must be emptied and refilled for maintenance more regularly, we may provide a permit to cover you for several refills over 12 months (for spas 500 L to 1,500 L only). 

For new pools and spas:
Once you're ready to fill your pool or spa, you or your pool supplier must apply for a pool or spa filling permit. You'll need to have an approved pool cover or lockable spa cover in use to be eligible for a permit.

Apply here     


 

filling a swimming pool

You can top up an existing pool using a hose fitted with a trigger nozzle for a maximum of 15 minutes a day.

Residents 

You can:
Tick icon - large wash your private car, truck, van, motorbike or caravan using a bucket and sponge or at a commercial car wash 

Tick icon - large wash your private boat for 10 minutes using a hose fitted with a trigger nozzle after the boat has been in seawater

Tick icon - large flush boat motors with a bucket or a purpose-designed flushing device connected to a hose

Tick icon - large fill water tanks on a boat using a hose, as long as you don't leave the hose unattended or allow the tank to overflow

Tick icon - large clean bilges using a high-pressure cleaning device or hose fitted with a trigger nozzle

Tick icon - large wash your trailered vessel and trailer using a bucket and sponge or at a commercial car wash

Tick icon - large clean essential safety components of boat trailers (eg wheel bearings or brakes) using a high-pressure cleaning device or hose fitted with a trigger nozzle.

You can't:

Cross icon no background hose your car, trailer or boat with a hose, even if the hose is fitted with a trigger nozzle, except as described above

Cross icon no background clean your vehicle with a high pressure cleaning device if it's connected to the drinking water supply (by a hose)
  
Cross icon no background leave hoses and taps running unattended.

Businesses

Businesses washing a small number of vehicles

This applies to businesses that would use a similar amount of water to an average family when washing vehicles.

You can:
Tick icon - large wash your car, truck or van using a bucket and sponge or at a commercial car wash.
 

Businesses washing a large number of vehicles

This applies to businesses such as car wash and detailing businesses, car sales yards, car fleet maintenance and management, and any businesses that operate many vehicles. 

You can:
Tick icon - large
 wash your cars, trucks or vans only if you have received a business exemption. Please apply for a water restrictions exemption for your business.

Hoses at boat ramps must be fitted with trigger nozzles and connected to a timer that shuts off the water after 10 minutes.

cleaning car with a bucket

You can wash and rinse your car using a sponge and bucket. Hoses are no longer permitted.

Residents and businesses

You can:
Tick icon - large provide drinking water for animals, including birds. If you use a hose, it must be fitted with a trigger nozzle

Tick icon - large clean or cool animals using a bucket and sponge, a hose with a trigger nozzle or a professional animal wash service

Tick icon - large use a hand-held hose fitted with a trigger nozzle, bucket or high-pressure cleaning equipment to clean pens, yards and cages

Tick icon - largecool animal enclosures (such as sheds and similar enclosures) to ensure animal welfare or meet legal requirements using:

  • dedicated sprinklers used only for cooling between 6 am and 9 pm when the temperature inside the shed is higher than 30 °C
  • fogging systems, misting systems or cooling pads at any time.
     
You can't:
Cross icon no background leave hoses running unattended

Cross icon no background use a hose without a trigger nozzle to fill water dishes, clean animals or clean pens
 
Cross icon no background use sprinklers except as outlined above for cooling of sheds and similar enclosures.

 
Business exemptions
Businesses, such as commercial dog washers or animal carers (such as WIRES volunteers) can apply for an exemption to use water other than described above.

Businesses involved in intensive animal production (such as poultry and dairy farms) are already tightly regulated with the use of drinking water for animal welfare and do not need to apply for an exemption.
 
Dog being washed in a bucket

You can clean or cool animals using a bucket and sponge.

Residents and businesses

You can:

Tick icon - large spot clean hard surfaces for health, safety or emergency reasons, using a hose fitted with a trigger nozzle or high pressure cleaning equipment

Tick icon - large use water for dust suppression for health or environmental reasons, using a hose fitted with a trigger nozzle, bucket or watering can. You can only do this if there is no alternative water source (such as recycled water) available

Tick icon - large wash your garbage bin using water from a bucket or a hose fitted with a trigger nozzle
  
Tick icon - large wash your windows or other glass surfaces with a bucket and cloth/sponge or engage a window cleaner who has an exemption permit
  
Tick icon - large use a broom to clean paths, driveways and other hard surfaces.


Businesses

In addition to the uses listed above, you can apply for an exemption to use water:
  
Tick icon - large for construction using a high pressure cleaning device, hand-held hose with a trigger nozzle, bucket or watering can  
  
Tick icon - large to operate construction or plumbing equipment that requires water for normal safe operation 

Tick icon - large to mix construction materials, such as such as mortar, render, concrete or paint, with a bucket, hose fitted with a trigger nozzle or an automated batch mixing plant.


Residents and businesses

You can't at any time:

Cross icon no background clean walls, roofing, gutters or hard surfaces such as paths, driveways and paved areas with a hose or high pressure cleaner as part of general cleaning
  
Cross icon no background use water for dust suppression without a permit, unless there's no alternative water source reasonably available

Cross icon no background leave hoses and taps running unattended.

woman cleaning windows with a bucket and cloth

You can clean your windows or other hard surfaces using a bucket of water and a cloth.


Residents and businesses  

You can:   

Tick icon - large use recycled water, greywater, rainwater or bore water to fill or top up your pond or water feature.

You can't:

Cross icon no background use drinking water to fill or top up your new or existing pond, lake, fountain, or other water feature.

How can you apply for an exemption for your pond or water feature?
If your pond or lake sustains aquatic life or birds, is heritage-listed or could be damaged by being turned off for long periods, you’ll need to email us to apply for an exemption.

Please tell us your name, property address, capacity of the water feature and why you need the exemption.

Outdoor water feature

You can use recycled water, greywater, rainwater or bore water to fill or top up your water feature as long as it doesn't include drinking water.

Residents and businesses

While we do all we can to repair leaks quickly on our water supply system, many leaks that are reported to us are on private property and we can't fix them. If there's a leak on your property, we may ask you to engage a plumber to repair the leak.

Where relevant, we’ll refer you to one of our water saving programs:

  • WaterFix® Residential is a service where our qualified plumbers fix leaking taps and fixtures around your home and install water saving fittings like 4 star showerheads for free.
  • WaterFix® Concealed Leaks is a service which helps find and repair hidden leaks.
  • PlumbAssist® is a service for customers with payment difficulties who require essential plumbing services. This is one of the services we offer if you need help with your bill.


Our aim is always to work with you to fix leaks. If you don't respond when we ask you to fix a leak, you may be subject to fines under the water restrictions.

 

Leaking pipe outdoors spraying water

We'll try to work with property owners to help them fix leaks on their private property. 

 

What should you do if your business is affected by water restrictions?
If your business relies on using water outdoors and you can't follow the restrictions to continue your operations, you need an exemption permit for each different site.

If you already have a permit for level 1 restrictions, we'll contact you to let you know if we'll be sending a new exemption permit and stickers automatically, if your conditions will change or if you need to re-apply. In the meantime, you can continue using water under the conditions of your level 1 permit.

If you don't have a current exemption permit, you'll need to Apply for a water restrictions exemption for your business. Please read the restrictions and exclusions carefully before applying. We'll assess all new applications against Level 2 restrictions.
 



Frequently asked questions

Exemptions are designed to allow businesses that depend on outdoor water use to continue with their primary business activities during restrictions. Businesses can apply for an exemption permit from the restrictions.

Residential customers can’t normally apply for exemptions to water restrictions, but can apply for an exemption:

  • if they have special circumstances, for example medical reasons
  • to fill a new or renovated pool or spa
  • to fill or top up a pond, lake or water feature that sustains aquatic life, is heritage-listed or needs to be run intermittently
  • to extend the four-week turf establishment period (if needed).  

Find out about special exemptions for residential customers.
We'll give exemptions to some businesses that rely on water to continue their main business activity.

This means that some tradespeople, such as gardeners and builders, who may work on your property can use water within the conditions of their water restrictions exemptions permit. Their permit may include watering between 10 am and 4 pm or watering hard surfaces to enable them to operate their business at their customers' various properties.

Permits do have conditions, for example, standard sprinklers are not allowed.

If you're concerned, ask your contractor about their exemption. When we approve an exemption, we provide a permit and sticker to display at their place of business or on their vehicles, so they can explain to customers.

You can use hose-on fertiliser/chemical products on your lawn and garden as long as:

  • the sprayer has an on-off water flow control on the handpiece
  • you shut off the water flow as soon as the container is empty. Continued use of the hose when you're not applying a fertiliser or other product is not allowed.


Can you use hose-on products on other surfaces?

You can't use hose-on products (such as wall or window cleaners and path weeders etc) on hard surfaces at any time.

 

You can use high pressure cleaning equipment if you're:

  • not using drinking water. This may include using water you've collected, such as rainwater or greywater
  • using water from an average sized bucket (9 - 15 litre capacity) rather than having a direct connection to your cleaning equipment. You must not have a continuous supply of water to the bucket, such as a hose running into the bucket or the bucket sitting under a running tap
If you see someone deliberately misusing water, you can  make a report about water restrictions.

Please check what's allowed before you submit a report as some exclusions apply to the water restrictions and many non-residential customers will have an exemption permit.

Our Community Water Officers will follow up on any reports we receive and can issue fines of $220 for individuals or $550 for businesses.

To use a standpipe, you need a standpipe permit from Sydney Water and your standpipe must be metered. Water carters and other standpipe users take drinking water from our network, so whoever uses that water is subject to water restrictions.

If you use a standpipe, you must apply for a water restrictions exemption for your business. You'll need an exemption permit for each type of water use, for example dust suppression, construction activities etc.

Metered standpipes can't be used for agricultural, private or domestic use, or to supply water as an alternative to a property’s normal water service. This is a breach of the terms of our standpipe permits and is not allowed at any time.

Water carters can only supply drinking water for purposes allowed under water restrictions.
It's important that we manage our water supply effectively - especially during severe drought conditions. 

Sydney’s water supply is planned and secured through the Metropolitan Water Plan. This is the NSW Government’s plan to ensure there's enough water now and in the future.

Find out about all the elements of our  drought response.

What are the fines for not following the restrictions?
Fines of $220 apply to individuals and $550 for businesses.



 

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