News, Culture & Society

Drought-ravaged Dubbo lets its residents water lawns and take unlimited showers

Dubbo might be gripped by the worst drought on record but its residents have just won the right to keep watering their lawns and take unlimited showers.

The central western New South Wales city has loosened the meaning of level four water restrictions, allowing households to turn on the taps more often for longer.

Last week the city introduced a new ‘very high’ level of restrictions which included limiting showers to five minutes and banning the watering of lawns.

Those restrictions were met with a community backlash which led to the rules being wound back almost immediately by Dubbo Regional Council.

Councils in other nearby drought-ravaged towns including Warren, Nyngan and Cobar reacted angrily by suggesting Dubbo was being reckless with its water supply.

Drought-ravaged Dubbo’s residents have just won the right to keep watering their lawns and taking unlimited showers. The central western New South Wales city has loosened the meaning of level four water restrictions. A Dubbo resident is pictured legally watering a lawn

Last week Dubbo introduced a new 'very high' level of restrictions which included limiting showers to five minutes. After a community backlash the restrictions were wound back almost immediately by Dubbo Regional Council. A Dubbo resident is pictured legally washing a car

Last week Dubbo introduced a new ‘very high’ level of restrictions which included limiting showers to five minutes. After a community backlash the restrictions were wound back almost immediately by Dubbo Regional Council. A Dubbo resident is pictured legally washing a car

Councils in towns including Warren, Nyngan and Cobar suggested Dubbo was being reckless with its water supply. Dubbo's mayor has criticised outsiders for 'carrying on like pork chops'. A Dubbo resident is pictured watering a plant from a bucket, which was already permissible

Councils in towns including Warren, Nyngan and Cobar suggested Dubbo was being reckless with its water supply. Dubbo’s mayor has criticised outsiders for ‘carrying on like pork chops’. A Dubbo resident is pictured watering a plant from a bucket, which was already permissible 

Dubbo’s original level four restrictions banned watering lawns and washing down walls or paved surfaces.

Residential gardens could only be watered with drip systems, soaker and hand-held hoses between 6pm and 8pm on Wednesdays and Sundays. 

Evaporative air conditioners, which require a water tank to operate, could only be used between 7am and midnight.

The restrictions set a target of 245 litres of water use per person per day and came into effect on November 1.

Council had warned the next step could be to lift restrictions to level five – which is classed as ‘extreme’ – but on Monday gave in to pressure from unhappy ratepayers. 

It simply change its definition of level four restrictions so that residents could go back to what they were previously doing including watering their lawns.

Dubbo's original level four restrictions banned washing down walls. Residential gardens could only be watered with drip systems, soaker and hand-held hoses between 6pm and 8pm on Wednesdays and Sundays. This lawn was being legalled watered in Dubbo on Wednesday

Dubbo’s original level four restrictions banned washing down walls. Residential gardens could only be watered with drip systems, soaker and hand-held hoses between 6pm and 8pm on Wednesdays and Sundays. This lawn was being legalled watered in Dubbo on Wednesday

The mayor of Bogan Shire which takes in the town of Nyngan, said all councils needed to co-operate to cope with the drought. This picture taken recently in drought-ravaged Nyngan

The mayor of Bogan Shire which takes in the town of Nyngan, said all councils needed to co-operate to cope with the drought. This picture taken recently in drought-ravaged Nyngan 

Dubbo's new water rules were criticised by surrounding councils which like Dubbo rely on Burrendong Dam for water supply. Burrendong (pictured)  is at 3.7 per cent capacity and predictions suggest the Macquarie River which supplies the dam will stop flowing in May

Dubbo’s new water rules were criticised by surrounding councils which like Dubbo rely on Burrendong Dam for water supply. Burrendong (pictured)  is at 3.7 per cent capacity and predictions suggest the Macquarie River which supplies the dam will stop flowing in May

There is no state-wide definition of what the different levels of water restrictions actually mean. Some activities allowed in one region under level four restrictions would not be permitted in others. 

Under the newly relaxed Dubbo regime residents can water their lawns for a maximum 30 minutes on Wednesdays and Sundays between 6pm and 9am. 

Walls and paved surfaces can now be cleaned using a bucket. Cars, boats and trailers can be washed at home with a trigger hose or pressure washer at any time.

There is no limit on time spent under the shower and evaporative air conditioners can be used at any hour.

The daily target for water use has also been increased from 245 litres to 280 litres per person per day.

The changes were met with criticism from surrounding councils which like Dubbo rely on Burrendong Dam for water supply.  

Burrendong is at 3.7 per cent capacity and predictions suggest the Macquarie River which supplies the dam will stop flowing in May next year.

There is no state-wide definition of what the different levels of water restrictions actually mean. Some activities allowed in one area under level four restrictions would not be permitted in others. This man was legally washing his car in Dubbo on Wednesday

There is no state-wide definition of what the different levels of water restrictions actually mean. Some activities allowed in one area under level four restrictions would not be permitted in others. This man was legally washing his car in Dubbo on Wednesday

Under the relaxed regime Dubbo residents can water their lawns for a maximum 30 minutes on Wednesdays and Sundays between 6pm and 9am. Walls and paved surfaces can now be cleaned with a bucket. Cars, boats and trailers can be washed at home with a trigger hose

Cobar mayor Lil­liane Brady called Dubbo’s councillors gutless for relaxing the restrictions and accused them of not taking water conservation seriously.

‘They’ve got no guts,’ Cr Brady told The Australian. ‘Dubbo councillors are a bit weak on this. It was unwise to do what they did.’

DUBBO’S NOVEMBER 1 WATER RESTRICTIONS 

No watering lawns

No washing down walls or paved surfaces

Showers limited to five minutes

No use of evaporative air conditioners between midnight and 7am 

Not to use more than 245 litres of water per person per day

Warren Shire Council mayor Milton Quigley told the same newspaper Dubbo needed to be more responsible with its water supply.

‘We’re all in the same boat – it would be nice to think ­everyone is heading in the same direction,’ Cr Quigley said.

‘We can’t send the message that turning on a tap and ­expecting water to appear is always going to occur because it won’t.’

Ray Donald, mayor of Bogan Shire which takes in the town of Nyngan, said all local councils needed to co-operate to cope with the drought.

More than 99 per cent of NSW is still locked in a drought described as the worst in Australia for 400 years.

Last weekend Dubbo, which has a population of 40,000 and is about 400km north-west of Sydney, received just 13mm of rain amid widespread heavier downpours. 

Its mayor Ben Shields said criticism of his town’s water policy was coming from outsiders who did not know what they were talking about. 

Dubbo has a population of almost 40,000 and is about 400km north-west of Sydney. Last weekend parts of the city received 15mm of rain which was barely enough to wet the ground

Dubbo has a population of almost 40,000 and is about 400km north-west of Sydney. Last weekend parts of the city received 15mm of rain which was barely enough to wet the ground 

Some parts of Australia are facing the worst drought in 400 years. This rain map from the Bureau of Meteorology shows 'serious deficiency', 'severe deficiency' and 'lowest on record'

Some parts of Australia are facing the worst drought in 400 years. This rain map from the Bureau of Meteorology shows ‘serious deficiency’, ‘severe deficiency’ and ‘lowest on record’

‘A lot of smaller guys like to take potshots at the big brother,’ he said.

‘Council is unified on this but we’ve got a bunch of external people carrying on like pork chops.’

DUBBO’S NOVEMBER 4 WATER RESTRICTIONS 

Lawns can be watered for 30 minutes between 6pm and 9am on Wednesdays and Sundays

Walls and paved surfaced can be washed using a bucket and water

No time limit on showers

Evaporative air conditioners can be used all day

Not to use more than 280 litres of water per person per day

Cr Shields said council’s two main changes were to permit Dubbo residents to water their lawns twice a week for 30 minutes and allowing the use of evaporative air conditioners.

‘What concerned the council was, what if people turned the water off in their evaporative air conditioners?’ Cr Shields said.

‘How would that impact our old folks or people with disabilities?’

The council’s priority was getting Dubbo residents to meet their daily water usage limits.

‘We are still not at the targets we need to hit per resident,’ Cr Shields said. ‘That’s our biggest priority. 

‘We are a good 100 litres over per person. We can get better than that.’

Cr Shields noted Dubbo also drew water from underground aquifers.

‘The dam is in trouble, that’s not in doubt,’ he said said. ‘That’s a big concern.

Cobar mayor Lil­liane Brady called Dubbo's councillors gutless for relaxing the restrictions and accused them of not taking water conservation seriously. 'They've got no guts,' Cr Brady said. 'Dubbo councillors are a bit weak on this. It was unwise to do what they did'

Cobar mayor Lil­liane Brady called Dubbo’s councillors gutless for relaxing the restrictions and accused them of not taking water conservation seriously. ‘They’ve got no guts,’ Cr Brady said. ‘Dubbo councillors are a bit weak on this. It was unwise to do what they did’

Warren Shire Council mayor Milton Quigley said Dubbo needed to be more responsible with its water supply. 'We're all in the same boat - it would be nice to think ­everyone is heading in the same direction,' Cr Quigley said. This picture was taken recently at Warren

Warren Shire Council mayor Milton Quigley said Dubbo needed to be more responsible with its water supply. ‘We’re all in the same boat – it would be nice to think ­everyone is heading in the same direction,’ Cr Quigley said. This picture was taken recently at Warren

‘But even without the dam, 35 per cent of our water comes from underground aquifers. We can bump up that supply if needed. Other councils don’t have that underground supply.’

The council’s chief executive officer Michael McMahon said the revisions were made to the local drought management plan after feedback from the community and industry groups.

‘The adjustments that have been made are far easier to understand, they are contemporary and consider new technologies that the existing drought management plan had not,’ he said.

Deputy mayor Stephen Lawrence said the new restrictions were still ‘undeniably very strict’ but had the support of the local community.

Dubbo residents used only a ‘tiny amount’ of Burrendong’s water compared with farms and other businesses, he said.

Dubbo council's chief executive officer Michael McMahon said the revisions were made to the local drought management plan after feedback from the community and industry groups. This lawn in Dubbo was being watered legally on Wednesday

Dubbo council’s chief executive officer Michael McMahon said the revisions were made to the local drought management plan after feedback from the community and industry groups. This lawn in Dubbo was being watered legally on Wednesday

Warren's mayor Milton Quigley said: 'We can¿t send the message that turning on a tap and ­expecting water to appear is always going to occur because it won't.' Nyngan is pictured

Warren’s mayor Milton Quigley said: ‘We can’t send the message that turning on a tap and ­expecting water to appear is always going to occur because it won’t.’ Nyngan is pictured

Cr Lawrence described the increases to permissible water usage as ‘pretty modest’ and said the most extreme water-saving measures were not always the most appropriate.

WATER RESTRICTIONS: LEVELS ONE TO FIVE 

There is no nationwide definition of  water restriction levels. Tamworth is used as an example.

Level one: Sprinklers and fixed hoses are allowed for only two hours per day

Hand-held hoses can be used between 4pm and 9am

No washing of hard surfaces unless using a high-pressure cleaner

Cars can be washed any time if using a high-pressure cleaner

Level two: Sprinklers and fixed hoses cannot be used

Hand-held hoses can be used from 5pm to 7pm 

Vehicles can only be washed with a hand-held hose from 5pm to 7pm

Level three: Hand-held hoses for only 15 minutes between 5pm and 7pm

Pools can be filled during 15 minutes of allowed hose time

Level four: All residential outdoor use of treated water is banned

Cleaning of car windows and windscreens with buckets only 

Pools cannot be filled or topped up

Level five: Emergency level
  

‘It’s all about striking a balance. We have to realistically look at our situation,’ he said.

‘There are simplistic demands for the most extreme measures but the most extreme measures are not always the best measures.’

Dubbo has been under pressure from the state government for some time to reduce its water use as the drought worsens and Burrendong continues to dry.

The council voted to adopt level three water restrictions in September after NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey threatened to force the town onto a tougher regime.

Former mayor Mathew Dickerson had strongly objected to the level four restrictions, claiming they would hurt tourism. He has said motel bookings were down as much as 50 per cent.

‘The last thing a regional city needs is a scare campaign about running out of water,’ Mr Dickerson told the Sydney Morning Herald.

‘We’ve got more than enough water for our normal usage.

‘The sensible thing for council to do now would be to say, “We got it wrong, let’s go back to level two,” but they don’t want to do that because they would lose face so they’re going to change the definition.’

Council staff are monitoring water use in the local government area and on-the-spot fines of $220 can be issued for breaches.

Residents can also dob in their neighbours for using too much water on the Dubbo Regional Council website.

Council staff are monitoring water use in the local government area and on-the-spot fines of $220 can be issued for breaches. This woman was legally watering her lawn on Wednesday

Council staff are monitoring water use in the local government area and on-the-spot fines of $220 can be issued for breaches. This woman was legally watering her lawn on Wednesday

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


Comments are closed.