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Water restrictions tightening as fires surround Sydney

Ben Domensino, Friday December 6, 2019 - 15:10 AEDT


The drought in NSW is well and truly on Sydney's doorstep. A number of large fires have developed around the Sydney Basin during the last four weeks, blanketing the city with thick smoke. Now, residents are preparing for Level 2 water restrictions, which come into force in a matter of days.

Like large areas of NSW and southeastern Australia, the Sydney region has experienced a prolonged period of unusually warm and dry weather during the last three years.

Between January 2017 and November 2019, NSW received its lowest rainfall on record for any comparative 35 month period since 1900. This three-year dry spell was capped off by the state's 6th driest and 8th hottest spring on record based on maximum temperatures.

Image: Rainfall deciles for the 35 month period between January 2017 and November 2019. Source: Bureau of Meteorology

This long-running dry period has seen water storages decline across the state.

The collective storage level in northern Murray Darling Basin dropped to 6.3 percent of capacity in November this year. However, some individual storages in the region are now below one percent.

While Sydney's water storage levels aren't this low, they have been dropping steadily over the last three years.

Sydney's overall storage level on Thursday December 5th was 45.2 percent of its capacity, its lowest level in more than a decade. Warragamba Dam, which supplies around 80 percent of the water for Sydney's homes and businesses, was sitting at 46.1 percent. 

Image: Warragamba Dam sittling below 50 percent capacity on November 26th.

The continuing decline of Sydney's storages has prompted authorities to implement Level 2 water restrictions from Tuesday December 10th.

These restrictions mean that people living or working in Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra can only water gardens before 10am and after 4pm. This can only be done using a watering can or bucket, while drip irrigation and smart watering systems are limited to 15 minutes per day. There are also restrictions on when and how you can top up your swimming pools or spas and vehicles can only be washed using a bucket and sponge.

It's important to point out that drinking water can still be used to fight fires during Level 2 restrictions. 

You can find more details about Sydney's Level 2 water restrictions on the Sydney Water website.

- Weatherzone

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