A recent BoM forecast of below average rainfall and extremely dry catchments means the prospect of getting a little respite from the drought in the short term is very low, which in turn means we can probably expect Armidale's level 1 and Guyra's level 2 water restrictions to worsen soon.
This should be nearly 'the norm' for people.Cr Simon Murray
For the first time since the 1970s when Malpas Dam was built, Armidale council has activated its Drought Management Plan for level 1 water restrictions when the dam fell below 60 per cent. As of Sunday March 17 Guyra Dam sat at 54 per cent and council urged Guyra residents to conserve water and adhere to the town's level 2 restrictions.
Armidale Regional Council Mayor Simon Murray said there was still a lot of water in the dam, but there had been no inflows for a very long time.
"It is currently running at about 58 per cent, or a bit over that," he said.
"This restriction tries to encourage people not use water outside on the garden etc. in the heat of the day. That's what it is encouraging the people to do.
"It's not really a bad thing because in one of the driest continents we really should be really starting to plan for it anyway. This should be nearly 'the norm' for people.
Cr Murray said we could no longer take water for granted and needed to catch-up with the rest of Australia by implementing water conservation in our everyday lives, whether we were on water restrictions or not.
"Water is a valuable resource and we mustn't waste it," he said.
"We really should be calling it 'water conservation level 1', because we're into conserving water. And the [Malpas] pipeline is not even constructed yet, so the dam level has got nothing to do with Guyra using water."
Officially level 1 water restrictions commenced last Wednesday and the following restrictions apply:
- Sprinklers and fixed hoses can only be used for two hours a day and not between 10am and 5pm
- Hand held hoses with trigger nozzles cannot be used between 10am and 5pm
- Water efficient drip irrigation cannot be used between 10am and 5pm
- Washing vehicles with a hose cannot be done between 10am and 5pm
- Washing down hard surfaces with a hand held hose is not allowed
- Washing down surfaces with a high pressure cleaner is OK
- Buckets and cans are OK
But wait, there's more ...
Council is encouraging Armidale residents to go beyond the level 1 restrictions and implement water conservation measures more broadly around the home.
- With about 40 per cent of all water consumed in the home is used in the bathroom, it recommends using 3-star rated shower heads, which use no more than 9 litres of water per minute. Old style shower heads use up to 20 litres per minute. Showering for six minutes, a water efficient shower head can save up to 50 litres of water for each shower, or up to 20,000 litres of water per person per year. So, shorter showers save water and money.
- If you water your garden avoid the heat of the day with its high evaporation rate. Use sprinklers or hoses only in the early morning or evening.
- Keep an eye on the weather forecast. If rain is forecast then let it do your watering for you. Remember, less frequent watering forces roots down to find water, making the plants less reliant on surface water and better able to stand hot, dry days. Many plants are much tougher than you think.
- People overestimate how much water their lawn needs. Grass is shallow rooted and rarely extends more than 25mm into the soil. More water than this on your soil is not helping your lawn, or your water bill.
- Mulch can reduce evaporation from soil by up to 70 percent. Mulch is like a blanket on the soil. It keeps the soil cool and it reduces evaporation because the soil is not exposed to dry air and drying winds.
- Fifteen to 20 per cent of all water consumed in the home is used in the laundry. Major appliances and tap ware products carry labels according to their water efficiency. Look out for the WELS (Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards) label - this is displayed on the product or a swing tag.
And remember, water can easily be wasted around the home due to leaking pipes and dripping taps. Check for leaks and take prompt action.