Water restrictions will soon be imposed upon Sydneysiders for the first time in close to a decade.
As of June 1, residents and businesses in the Australian city will be fined between $220 AUD and $550 if they breach the level one restrictions.
The New South Wales government has implemented the regulations to slow the drainage of the region’s dams — which are failing to be replenished due to a record drought throughout much of the state.
“Water restrictions are an important element of our drought response as they help reduce water demand when we’re not getting enough rain,” Sydney Water stated in a Facebook post Monday. “We all need to rally together now and help to save water.”
Under the restrictions, standard sprinklers, watering systems, and running unattended hoses will be forbidden. Rules will also apply for car washing, which will now need to be achieved using a bucket or with a hose that has a trigger nozzle. Hosing down hard surfaces — like driveways and paved areas — will also be banned.
Following a three-month forgiveness period, workers from Sydney Water will begin patrolling suburbs and issuing fines.
Level one restrictions would typically become mandatory when dam levels fall below 50% capacity. As of Wednesday, the level sat at 53.4%. Melinda Pavey, water minister for New South Wales, said the speed at which the dams were declining meant the government felt compelled to introduce restrictions early.
“It’s vital we take early and decisive action,” she announced in a statement. “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.”
A spokesperson from Sydney Water told Global Citizen dam levels have been dropping at an unprecedented rate. From April 2017, when the current drought first began, to April 2018, levels fell from 96% to 73%.
The rate of depletion, they stated, is 50% greater than during the preceding Millennium drought — known at the time as the worst on record.
“Our dams have been dropping by 0.4% per week since April 2017,” the spokesperson stated over email. “These new restrictions should have the effect of lowering demand, which in combination with water supplied from the desalination plant, will slow the depletion of the water levels in the dams.”
The restrictions come just months after Sydney’s desalination plant was re-activated. The backup water source, which hadn’t been used in seven years, removes salt from seawater to produce clean drinking water.
The desalination plant is set to supply 15% of Sydney's water needs.