Sydney will face its harshest water restrictions in a decade, with the Berejiklian government to announce new limits on watering gardens, washing cars and filling pools on Thursday.
Level 2 water restrictions will come into force for the city, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra regions from December 10 as poor rainfall shrinks dam levels to new lows.
The dam level for the greater Sydney catchment — including a major reservoir in Warragamba — was at near 46.2 per cent on Wednesday. The Cataract Dam in the Upper Nepean was at 26.5 per cent.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said a rapid decrease in dam levels had made the higher restrictions more urgent — they were due to come into force in February.
“Usually, we would expect to have Level 2 water restrictions come into effect when dam levels reached 40 per cent,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“We’re experiencing one of the most severe droughts on record and we expect [the] restrictions to save 78.5 gigalitres of water per year."
The last time Sydney faced Level 2 water restrictions was during the devastating Millenium Drought.
The latest changes, approved by cabinet three weeks ago, will require gardens to be watered by a bucket or watering can between approved times.
Cars can only be washed with a bucket or taken to a commercial car wash and pools can only be topped up for 15 minutes per day using a hose with a trigger nozzle.
The Herald on Wednesday revealed that the latest WaterNSW Greater Sydney Operations Plan showed monthly water usage in Sydney since November last year had been higher than the city's five-year average.
Sydney moved to its first water restrictions in almost a decade on June 1 when dam levels reached 53.2 per cent.
Water Minister Melinda Pavey said the Bureau of Meteorology has predicted another hot summer, worsening the situation further.
The restrictions also affect businesses. “We’re doing the work to save as much drinking water as we can to ensure there is enough if the drought persists,” Ms Pavey said.
The Herald also reported on Wednesday that Sydney Water has asked the Independent Pricing Regulatory Tribunal to allow it to make changes increasing annual household water bills by $30.
That was for a 20 per cent increase in capital spending to $11.4 billion from 2020 to 2024 to respond to the drought and for new infrastructure.
Sydney Water managing director Roch Cheroux said he had "more certainty of drought conditions" from 2020 to 2024 than it did six months ago.
"We need to ensure that we have enough funding to respond to drought and improve our water resilience for our customers and our city," Mr Cheroux said on Tuesday.