Have no doubt, we're in drought

Over 3 million* Sydneysiders unaware of current drought conditions

Media release

5 May

The lush green appearance of Sydney’s parks and gardens has helped mask the city’s on-going dry conditions.

Greater Sydney is in drought and dam levels are dropping faster than they have in decades, yet new research** reveals nearly two thirds of Sydney residents (62%) are unaware of current conditions.

Commissioned by Sydney Water, the data suggests heavy rainfall received in March has contributed to a lack of awareness, with people (19%) believing drought is an issue that only affects regional and rural areas.

Minister for Water, Melinda Pavey, said when you look around Sydney, it’s understandable that the importance of conserving water may not be top of mind.

'But we’re experiencing some of the driest conditions on record and while we had some good rain in some areas during March, overall our dam levels continue to drop,' Ms Pavey said.

'That’s why it’s never been more important for all of the Greater Sydney, Blue Mountains and Illawarra communities to come together to help save water.'

Executive Drought Lead at Sydney Water, Catherine Port, said one of the surprising results of the research was the fact that more than a quarter (26%) of inner-city dwellers don’t believe the drought will impact them.

'April was a particularly dry month and the outlook from the Bureau of Meteorology is for average temperatures and on-going dry conditions,' Ms Port said.

'Over the past 18 months we have seen some of the lowest inflows into catchment dams since before 1940.

'Sydney’s total dam storages currently sit at around 55%, dropping on average by 0.4% each week.'

Executive Director of Water Services Association of Australia, Adam Lovell, encouraged the community to follow water saving tips to safeguard our water supply.

'There are so many ways to help save water: from water efficient showerheads and new efficient outdoor irrigation technology, to water use labelling on dishwashers and washing machines – head to the Sydney Water website to find out more,' Mr Lovell said.

'Since the Millennium Drought, so many in the community continue to use water wisely inside and outside the home. However, many parts of Australia are experiencing drought conditions far worse than the Millennium Drought.

The Sydney Water research* revealed:

  • Drought doubt: Despite Sydney experiencing some of the driest conditions on record, almost half of Sydney residents (47 per cent) don’t believe that we’re in drought and many people are unsure (15%).

  • Drought perceptions: People are more likely to believe we’re in drought when there is little or no rain over a long period of time (72%), than when there is little or no rainfall across dams (49%). This potentially indicates that it’s rainfall at an individual’s location that influences perceptions of drought.

  • City residents not concerned: Surrounded by green parks and gardens, over a quarter (26%) of inner-city dwellers don’t think the drought will impact them and one in five people (19%) believe the drought only impacts regional or rural areas.

  • Water savings are underestimated: Drought is a big issue affecting the entire state, but almost one in five people (18%) don’t think their water saving efforts will make a difference, despite almost two thirds (60%) of people knowing they could reduce their usage.

  • Water doesn’t have a dollar value: Despite needing water as much as food to survive, more than one in 10 people don’t care about how much they use (12%) because it’s not seen as a major household expense.

For more information on Sydney’s dam levels, the current drought and how to save water at home visit LoveWater.Sydney.

*Based on a Greater Sydney population 

**Sydney Water research conducted by Kantar Public, April 2019, surveying 1,000 Sydney residents aged 18+.