Residential

With continued dry hot weather and low rainfall, we are asking you to stay waterwise. Cutting back on your water use not only saves water, but also energy, money and helps the environment.  Here are the answers to some of our frequently asked questions regarding residential water restrictions.

ABOUT WATER RESTRICTIONS

When did Singleton Council water supply area go onto water restrictions?
Council moved to:

  • Level 2 Water Restrictions on 1 March 2020
  • Level 1 Water Restrictions on 26 June 2019
  • Permanent water wise rules were adopted as part of POL/26030 Water Supply Services Policy from 19 March 2018

How do I know where my water comes from?
Two water utilities provide water services within the Singleton Local Government Area; Singleton Council, which provides water services to Singleton, Jerrys Plains, Mount Thorley and Broke, and Hunter Water, which provides water services to Branxton.

Check your water bill if you are not sure which water utility provides your water.

Why are water restrictions needed?
When the Singleton region experiences an extended dry period and the long term forecast indicates a lower than normal prediction of rainfall, Council has a duty to follow its adopted Drought Management and Emergency Response Plan to ensure sufficient water is available to meet critical human needs.  In accordance with that plan and current drought conditions it is necessary to implement restrictions to ensure long term water security.

What is allowed under each level of water restrictions?
Due to the complexity of the Drought Management and Emergency Response Plan governing the water restrictions in Singleton Local Government Area, the following tables have been developed to download outlining the restrictions and permitted activities during each level of water restrictions.

Further information can be found here.

How long will water restrictions remain in place?
Water restrictions will be lifted when:

  • The long term forecast for rain is considered positive,
  • Council resolves to lift the current voluntary restrictions, and/or
  • Any reductions in high security water allocations, the trigger point set out in Council’s Drought management and Emergency Response Plan have been reinstated.

On approval to lift restrictions, ratepayers and the community will be advised via radio, print and social media.

How much rain would we need to see water restrictions lifted?
When Glennies Creek Dam was built in the early 1980s, it took 3 years of normal seasonal rainfall to fill its 283,000 megalitre capacity.  The rainfall currently being experienced in the catchment is at historically low levels, and while the region has experienced isolated rainfall in early February, the effects on the dam levels have been minor.

With increased demand for water from agriculture, industry, towns and environmental flows to the Hunter River and wetlands, water restrictions and the way we use water will become a part of everyday life for the foreseeable future.

Information on dam and rainfall levels can be found on WaterNSW website.

Why don’t we build more dams?
Traditionally, dams have been used as catchments for rainfall to supply water across the Hunter, but as we get less and less rain, our dams are experiencing less and less inflow. Developing new water sources alone isn’t enough though, the whole community (residents and businesses) need to work to reduce our water uses and be water efficient whenever and wherever possible.

While dams will continue to play an important part in our water supply, they aren’t a secure solution and developing water sources that aren’t dependent on rainfall should be a priority.

Why are Hunter Water and Singleton Council’s water restrictions different?
Hunter Water’s drought management response is governed by the Hunter Water Act 1991 (NSW) and Singleton Council’s drought management response is governed by the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW) and the NSW Best Practice Management for Water Supplies and Sewerage Guidelines (2007). As a result, Hunter Water has 3 levels of restrictions and Singleton Council has 6 levels of restrictions.

Additionally, both water utilities source water from distinctly different sources. Singleton Council sources its water from Glennies Creek Dam for Singleton, Mount Thorley and Broke and the Hunter River for Jerrys Plains. Hunter Water sources its water from Grahamstown Dam, Chichester Dam, Tomago Sandbeds, Anna Bay Sandbeds, the Paterson River and the Allyn River.

Why is Hunter Water on level 1 water restrictions and Singleton Council’s on level 2?
Although Hunter Water has reduced their water restrictions to level 1 following rain in mid February 2020, Singleton has not been so lucky with Glennies Creek Dam only seeing a 1% increase.

Singleton Council’s water restrictions apply to customers in Singleton, Mount Thorley, Broke and Jerrys Plains. Customers are encouraged to check their bill to confirm their water provider and applicable water restrictions.

I’m confused by all the terminology about types of water, please explain.
Potable water – drinking water and water used for food preparation (also referred to as town water).

Non-potable – water that is not of drinking quality, but still may be used for many other purposes, depending on its quality. Also known as ‘raw water’ or ‘untreated water’

Groundwater – water that is present beneath Earth’s surface in soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations.

Surface water – water on the surface of the Earth such as rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands.

Greywater – the waste water generated from households or office buildings from showers, baths, spas, hand basins, laundry tubs and washing machines.

Dark greywater – water from dishwashers and kitchen sinks (which have higher levels of chemicals, fats and other organic matter).

Black water – water from toilets.

Recycled water – reclaimed or recycled water is the process of converting wastewater into water that can be reused for other purposes. Reuse may include irrigation of gardens and agricultural fields or replenishing surface water and groundwater.

Bore water – water that has accumulated over time in underground aquifers (water storages). A bore is drilled down into the aquifer and water is pumped to the surface for irrigation, town water supply (following additional processing), crops, stock water etc. Also known as ‘groundwater’.

BORE WATER

If I use bore water or water extracted from rivers, do Level 2 water restrictions apply?
Water that is supplied from bores and rivers is not regulated by Singleton Council and is therefore not impacted by water restrictions. Water allocations for these sources are managed by the Department of Planning Industry and Investment - Water.

While Singleton Council’s water restrictions don’t apply to bore or river water you do need approval from WaterNSW to extract groundwater and surface water.

How do I report someone using bore and river water who I think is breaking the rules?
Contact the Natural Resource Regulator (NRAR) if you believe a WaterNSW/NRAR licenced water user was using water illegally. Learn more here.

Are water users licenced by WaterNSW allowed to use their at any time of the day?
Water users using water licensed by WaterNSW are not subject to Singleton Council’s water restrictions and are not restricted to using it only at certain times of the day.

However, this does not mean that water usage by licenced water users is unrestricted. WaterNSW and Department of Planning, Industry and Environment restricts water volume in times of drought. In severe drought, there are many farmers and other users that have no water allocation available to them

BREACHES – REPORTING AND PENALTIES

What happens to those who don’t do the right thing?
Council’s POL/26032 Water Restrictions Enforcement Policy outlines how Council will enforce the water restrictions. The steps are:

  • Restricted breach is reported
  • Issue water restrictions information flyer to the offending property occupant
  • Issue warning letter accompanied by water restrictions information flyer to the offending property occupant
  • Issue penalty infringement notice (PIN) accompanied by water restrictions information flyer to the offending property occupant
  • Restrict water supply through installation of an orifice plate at the meter of the offending property
  • PIN, court order and/or prosecution of the offending property occupant.

How do you police water restriction compliance?
The tools Council uses to monitor compliance and detect breaches of water restrictions include:

  • Council compliance staff undertaking patrols;
  • Spot checks without warning;
  • Specific inspections;
  • Water consumption data
  • Notified site inspections;
  • Community feedback and reports; and
  • Investigations and reports from other agencies or regulatory authorities.

All reports of breaches are taken seriously and investigated to obtain the necessary evidence to support action.  The quality of the information you provide when reporting will make it easier to act on the suspected breach.  To ensure we are able to act we ask that you provide the following information at a minimum:

  • Address of alleged breach
  • Time of alleged breach
  • Banned activity

What legislation allows Council to police water restrictions?
Section 637 of the Local Government Act, 1993 (NSW) permits Council to apply a penalty to a person who wilfully or negligently wastes or misuses water from a public water supply.  This section of the act gives Council various powers to enforce waste or misuse of water, including water restrictions.

How much is the fine for breaching water restrictions?
Section 637 of the Local Government Act, 1993 (NSW) sets the maximum penalty for a person who wilfully or negligently wastes or misuses water from a public water supply or causes any such water to be wasted at 20 penalty units.

At the date of the POL/26032 Water Restrictions Enforcement Policy, one penalty unit is equivalent to $110, meaning all penalties issued are up to $2,200.

Under s637 of the Local Government Act, 1993 (NSW) and schedule 12 of the Local Government (General) Regulation, 2005 (NSW), Council is able to issue a penalty infringement notice (PIN) . This ‘on the spot’ fine is currently set at $220.

What do I do if I see someone breaking the rules? 
If you know the person, have a reasonable conversation with them and let them know water restrictions apply, and they are breaching the restricted activities. If you are uncomfortable talking to the person breaking the rules, you can make a report you can report it:

  • online via our Online Services, you will need to log in or create an account to do this,
  • email council@singleton.nsw.gov.au, or
  • call one of our friendly Customer Service Officers, who will make the report on your behalf.

To report online, click here to register or sign in and navigate to Requests Centre > Report It > Report Water Restrictions Breach.

Providing evidence, such as date and time stamped photos and specific details of the breach(address, activity, times, dates, description etc), as well as leaving your name and contact details. This helps Council officer to investigate breaches and follow up with you if any additional information is needed. Your information is protected in accordance with Council’s Privacy Statement and will only be used to notify the outcome of your report or clarify any details.

As a landlord, can I be held responsible for an infringement should a tenant fail to comply with Level 1 water restrictions?
The intention is to provide notices to the occupier of the property. If you receive a notice as a landlord and do not reside at the property where the offence took place, you simply complete a Statutory Declaration and send it to the State Debt Recovery Office providing details of the agreement including the name of the person who leases the property.

EXEMPTIONS

Are there any exemptions?
General exemptions include using water for public health, safety and environmental issues.  For example to prevent or in the event of an accident or health hazard, you can use a high pressure cleaner to remove an oil spill on a driveway, hose pavers around a swimming pool that have become slippery from salt build up and you can always use water to defend property from fire or test fire protection systems.

Water can also be used for people and pets in heat stress.

Can I apply for a special variation or exemption?
Council understands there are times water usage is required outside the designated hours or purposes, or the conditions of restrictions cannot be reasonably met. In these instances, you may apply for a Water Restriction Special Exemption or Variation.

There are two types of variations applicable to water restrictions:

  • Special Exemption - available for one off activities over a short time period; for example pressure cleaning a driveway for repairs and maintenance.
  • Special Variation - available for the duration of the water restriction level applicable to the approval; for example an aged pensioner may apply for a special variation to watering times or days based on when carers are available.

IN YOUR HOME

Do water restrictions affect the use of water inside my home?
Water restriction Levels 1, 2 and 3 primarily apply to outdoor water usage, however we encourage residents to help water saving efforts by by reducing showers to 4 minutes, fixing leaks around the home or waiting for a full load before doing the washing, we can all continue to play our part and conserve our precious resource

How do I calculate my daily water usage?
Step 1: Read your meter (e.g. 2,582,602L).
Step 2: Read your meter one week later (e.g. 2,584,612L).
Step 3: Subtract your first read from your second read (e.g. 2,584,604L – 2,582,602L).
Step 4: Divide the answer you found in Step 3 by the number of people in your household (e.g. based on 3 person family, 2,010L / 3 people = 670L p/person p/week).
Step 5: Find your daily consumption by dividing the answer you found in Step 4 by 7 (e.g. 670L / 7 = 96L p/person p/day).

You can read more about reading your water meter here.

How long can I shower for?
Under Level 2 water restriction there is no restrictions on showering, however Council encourages efficient water use when showering, so aim to shower for four (4) minutes or less.  That is the length of a pop song on the radio or set the timer on your phone.  

Can I use my evaporative air conditioner/cooler? Are there any restrictions?
Yes, evaporative air conditioners/coolers can be used at home and there are no restrictions on their use at level 2 water restrictions. However, the use of evaporative air conditioners/coolers is restricted from level 4 water restrictions.

BUILDINGS AND HARD SURFACES

What is a hard surface?
Houses, walls, windows, driveways, patios, concrete surfaces and paths etc. are all considered to be hard surfaces and in most cases are not considered to be high in prioritising water for essential purposes. 

All levels of restrictions ban this water use activity, unless it is for maintaining health, hygiene and safety for people reasons

Can I use water wash my windows?
You can wash your windows using a bucket and hand held hose fitted with a trigger nozzle or high pressure water cleaning equipment.  Consideration to the conditions and time of day should be given.

Can I use a high pressure cleaning device?
Unless it is for maintaining health, hygiene and safety reasons, paths, driveways, outdoor decks, concrete or pavement, walls, roofing, gutters and vehicles cannot be cleaned with high pressure cleaning equipment. 

When cleaning outdoor areas for health, hygiene and safety reasons a water efficient high pressure cleaning device is acceptable.

GARDENS AND OUTDOORS

When can I water my lawn and gardens?
Under level 2 water restrictions you can water your garden and lawn between 6pm – 9am and 6pm – 9pm, every second day as per the odds and evens system. 

How do I know which day I can water my garden and lawn?
The odds and evens system is based on the street number of the property and the numbered day of the month. If the property street number:

  • is an odd number you can water in accordance with the restrictions on odd numbered days of the month
  • is an even number you can water in accordance with the restrictions on even numbered days of the month
  • has a range of numbers then it should be treated as the first number in the range, for example 12 to 15 Smith Street can water on even numbered days of the month, in accordance with the restrictions,
  • has no street number, then it should be treated as an even property and you can water on even numbered days of the month, in accordance with the restrictions, and
  • has two street numbers (e.g. corner blocks) then it should be treated as an even property. For example, if the property has the addresses 1 Smith Street and 1 John Street then water use, in accordance with restrictions, can occur on even days.

All properties can water in accordance with the restriction levels on the 29th February and the 31st of months with 31 days.

What are the summer and winter months?
Restriction levels for watering activities including gardens and lawns are subject to seasonal variations for summer and winter. For all restriction levels:

What devices or systems are permitted?
The following methods are permitted under Level 2 water restrictions:

  • Buckets and watering cans,
  • Hand-held hoses fitted with an on/off trigger style nozzle,
  • Non-fixed sprinklers,
  • Fixed timing (programmable) water efficient drip and/or smart irrigation systems,
  • Micro sprays or soaker hoses that are fitted with a timer.

Can I still water my garden or lawn with a soaker hose?
Yes, under level 2 water restrictions you can water your garden and lawn with a soaker hose.  You must comply with the restricted watering hours, odds and evens system watering days and the hose must be connected to a timer. Soaker hoses are considered in the same category as non-fixed sprinklers.

Can I use sprinklers?
Yes, under level 2 water restrictions you can water your garden and lawn with a sprinkler, both fixed and non-fixed.  You must comply with the restricted watering hours, odds and evens system watering days and the sprinkler system or garden hose must be connected to a timer.

What is the definition of a sprinkler, fixed sprinkler and non-fixed sprinkler?
A sprinkler is a device used to spray water to irrigate the garden and/or lawn. A fixed sprinkler is part of a permanent watering systems of pop-up sprinklers, usually connected to a timer.  A non-fixed sprinkler is a device that can be attached to the end of a garden hose and moved about the lawn and garden.

What is a watering system?
A watering system is any permanent programmable watering system installed to irrigate the garden and/or lawn, including micro sprays, misting systems, drip systems and pop-up sprinklers.  These permanent watering systems must be connected to a timer.

What does water unattended mean?
Water unattended means you can’t leave a watering system, sprinkler, soaker hose, garden tap etc running while not at home. 

I have a water feature, can I still run it at anytime?
Yes, under Level 2 water restrictions you can run and top up a water feature.  However, Council encourages all water features installed, recirculates the water reducing the need for topping up with drinking water.

I have a gardener or contractor who works in my garden, do they have to comply with water restrictions?
Yes, any gardener or landscaper contracted to look after your garden will have to comply with the residential water restriction levels and activities in place across Singleton’s water supply area.  However, you may apply for a special variation if they are unable to comply with the restricted watering times.

Can I still lay new turf around my house?
Yes, watering of new turf is permitted for one (1) week after laying.  After this time, level 2 water restrictions on watering of lawns applies.

Can I use greywater at home?
Yes, use of greywater is permitted under every level of water restrictions.

Collecting greywater from laundries, sinks, and showers can hold harmful bacteria and high salt levels as well as other chemicals. With care, and in line with the NSW Guidelines for Greywater Reuse in Sewered, Single Household Residential Premises, greywater can be used on gardens and lawns. A greywater diversion device whilst not encouraged is permissible if it complies with the NSW Greywater Guidelines (as above), including the requirement for subsurface irrigation only.

Am I allowed to clean my garbage bin at anytime?
Yes, there should not be any compromise for maintaining health, hygiene and safety for people therefore cleaning your garbage bins is allowed. Provided you are using a hose fitted with a trigger nozzle and do this on the grass whenever possible.

PETS

Can I still wash my pet under Level 2 water restrictions?
Wash and rinse your pet with a bucket or hand held hose fitted with an trigger (on/off) nozzle at anytime on any day. Consideration should be given to the conditions and washing your pet on a grassed area.

What about cleaning pet enclosures?
Yes, there should not be any compromise for maintaining health, hygiene and safety for people or pets. Therefore, cleaning outdoor areas, such as animal pens or similar, for these reasons are also acceptable. You are encouraged to clean animal pens with water efficient high-pressure washers.

POOLS AND SPAS

What are the rules around topping up swimming pools and spas?
Under level 2 water restrictions, the topping up of existing swimming pools and spas is permitted from 6am to 9am and 6pm to 8pm by a hand held hose or a hose fixed to a timer.  Do not leave the hose unattended with the end in the pool, this will prevent backflow from occurring and protect our water supply.  There should always be an air gap between the end of the hose and the water in the pool. 

Council encourages the use of pool covers. Pool covers can help reduce evaporation by up to 90% and are a very effective way of reducing the amount of water needed to top up.

Can my child still play in an inflatable pool?
Yes under level 2 water restrictions inflatable and temporary children’s pools are permitted with a hand held hose fitted with trigger (on/off) nozzle or other device that can be shut off instantly or fixed to a timer.

Don’t forget pools with 30cm of water or more require fencing to protect the safety of children and Council approval is required for pools and spas over 2000L in capacity.

RAINWATER TANKS

Can I still water outdoors if I have a rainwater tank or bore?
Yes. The water restrictions are for the use of our potable water supply (town water). If the restrictions say ‘Not permitted’ for a particular use, this means that Council’s potable water supply cannot be used for this purpose.

Rainwater tanks that are filled by Council’s potable water supply are subject to the same water restrictions as town water. Water from another source (such as bore or rain water) can be used, however water is a finite resource and should be used wisely regardless of where it is sourced from.

Signage must be installed at premises identifying non-potable water is in use (such as recycled or bore water). Council will monitor and may conduct inspections and water quality testing to confirm the water source being used.

VEHICLES, BOATS AND CARAVANS

Can I wash my car at home?
Yes. Under Level 2 water restrictions washing of privately owned vehicles, caravans, trailers, boats, boat motors and jet skis at home is allowed with a bucket and rinsed with a trigger hose between 9am and 12pm.  They must be washed on a grassed surface.  If washed on a driveway for example, it would be considered a hard surface and this water use activity is banned.  Water efficient pressure washers may also be used.

This includes the flushing of boat motors after use, however motors do not need to be flushed if being used daily.

WATER SAVING TIPS

What are some simple tips my family can use to save water at home?
Council encourages everyone to be ‘wise with our water’. Some top tips include:

  • Take shorter showers (aim for five minutes or less) and use a water efficient shower head.
  • Always run your washing machine on full load (where you can save up to 10 litres of water each wash).
  • Wait until you have a full dishwasher before running it.
  • Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth.
  • Use greywater from laundries, sinks, and showers on gardens and lawn if safe to do so (in line with the NSW Guidelines for Greywater Reuse in Sewered, Single Household Residential Premises).
  • Fix leaky taps and pipes you have put off doing to stop water loss.
  • For outside, mulch, mulch and more mulch to help keep garden soils moist, and plant drought tolerant.

 Singleton Council has collaborated with Smart Approved WaterMark to provide a range of top tips and resources to help you save water inside and outside your home. More tips and resources are available our website.