Water Restrictions in Australia 2019-2020

Lawn-watering is an important part of keeping your garden green and healthy, but when water restrictions are in play, we all need to give more thought to conservation. Many areas of Australia are prone to drought, and most of us are familiar with the notion of water restrictions, but it can be tricky to work out exactly what you’re able to do within the boundaries. Here’s what you need to know about working around water restrictions to maintain your lawn. 

Types of water restrictions 

The stages of water restrictions are associated with different rules in each state, and there are penalties in place for those who break those restrictions, which is why it’s so important to do your research. Currently, there are a range of water restrictions in place across the country, with Bathurst, NSW, under extreme restrictions, and Orange and Tamworth experiencing similar constraints at Level 4. These restrictions prohibit any kind of outdoor watering, meaning watering lawns, washing cars, and topping up swimming pools are all outlawed activities. 

Many cities across the country are close behind with Level 3 restrictions, dictating that in addition to the sprinkler ban, hoses are only to be used for 15 minutes per day, between 5 and 7pm. For residents in these circumstances, hand-watering is the only acceptable method of garden care, so residents wanting to keep the garden in good shape will need to stretch their water allowance further than usual. 

Stage 1 Water Restrictions

Under Stage 1 water restrictions, which are currently in place in parts of New South Wales, including Sydney, and Queensland’s Fraser Coast, the same sprinkler bans apply,  although there are far more liberal rules in place around watering lawns and gardens. Watering is allowed before 10am and after 4pm for those using a hose, watering can, or bucket, and at any time for those homes with watering systems featuring sensors for rain or soil moisture levels. 

Stage 2 Water Restrictions

Stage 2 water restrictions generally prohibit the use of water outside unless absolutely necessary, and there are some very particular rules in place. For example, drought-prone areas like Townsville are subject to rules prohibiting sprinkler usage outside the hours of 6 to 8pm, with odd and even house numbers allowed to operate their sprinkler systems on alternating days. 

Permanent Water Savings Restrictions

Even when drought-induced restrictions aren’t in place, several state governments have implemented basic water-wise rules, although the Victorian Government is the only government in Australia to have enacted permanent water-saving restrictions (PWSR). Queensland had similar measures in place for many years, known as Permanent Water Conservation Measures, and although these were abolished in 2013, the average resident’s water usage remains well below what it was prior to the drought. 

How to conserve water

There are plenty of ways to reduce your water usage, and in drought conditions, you can expect to employ more drastic measures. During periods of intense water restriction, high-quality mulch can help keep your grass moist and protected from the heat of the sun, while recycled or ‘grey’ water will deliver much the same benefits without the environmental detriment. If you must water your plants or grass, a watering can is a far better option than a hose or sprinkler. 

So watering the lawn is a no-go during a drought, but how often should you water grass in regular weather conditions?  During Australian summers, the general rule is once a week, although there are no real hard-and-fast rules. The best watering schedule will depend largely on how resilient your grass is. 

If you’re unsure when to water lawn, you can often rely on your eyes for a diagnosis. Take a look at your grass after sunset, and if the grass looks wilted or has a tinge of grey, it’s a good sign that extra water is needed. 

The best time to water grass is in the morning or evening, when the heat of the midday sun won’t vaporise as much of the water used. If you have the time to give your lawn some love before work or after dusk, it will reward you with a lush green colour and spongy texture. 

Watering the lawn at night is ideal for ensuring the soil gets a deep soaking without the risk of evaporation, and encouraging the growth of stronger roots. This kind of deep watering means the grass won’t need tending to as frequently, and will also encourage the roots to seek out moisture from the depths of the soil, ultimately creating a drought-tolerant lawn. 

Working out how much or how long to water lawn is as simple as feeling the grass and topsoil. Place a hand against the topsoil, and if it feels dry, give it a drink with a watering can, as long as the drought restrictions in your area permit. Take care to avoid overwatering, and remember that unless the grass is newly-laid or grown, you only need to keep the grass and topsoil moist. 

Anyone wondering how often to water new turf should be aware that keeping the grass moist is an important part of encouraging strong roots to form. With recently-laid turf, watering up to four times a day is quite normal, hence why new turf and drought restrictions don’t pair well.

The best way to water lawn depends on how much space you need to cover, and of course, the water restrictions imposed. Sprinklers are very effective for giving an even all-over coverage, but are typically banned during drought conditions. Fortunately, a thorough once-over with a watering can will have much the same impact. 

It’s no secret that maintaining a lush lawn during drought season can be a challenge. Most Australians are well-acquainted with hot, dry, blade-killing weather, but if you’re willing to put in a bit of extra time and try out a few garden-hose alternatives, your grass will be all the better for it by the time summer rolls around. 


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