Residential Water Restrictions FAQs

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.


How long will water restrictions remain in place?

Water restrictions are 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.

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 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.


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. 

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).

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, 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.




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.

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).

How long can I shower for?

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.

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.