'Most severe drought in history' sparks water restrictions in region for first time in 25 years

For the first time in a quarter of a century, parts of NSW's Hunter region will face water restrictions as the state deals with one of its worst droughts on record.

The level one water restrictions - which focus on reducing outdoor water use - will kick in on September 16 across the Lower Hunter, which includes the city of Newcastle, 150km north of Sydney.

It has been 25 years since the region has had to implement water restrictions.

"This drought is more severe than NSW has ever experienced," NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey said in a statement on Friday.

A NSW farmer feeding his cattle on dry land.
Farmers in NSW have been heavily affected by the drought. Source: Getty

"While autumn and winter are typically the highest rainfall seasons for the Lower Hunter, the rainfall has not eventuated, causing the region's dams to fall to their lowest levels in more than two decades."

According to the Department of Primary Industries, 98.6 per cent of the state is suffering from drought.

Earlier this year, Sydney also entered level one restrictions as the drought continues to ravage the state.

Outdoor water use accounts for about 20 per cent of the Lower Hunter's total drinking water consumption.

Water restrictions will apply to all water users who use drinking water sourced from Hunter Water, including residents, business and government.

With the level one restrictions, watering of lawns and gardens must happen either before 10am or after 4pm.

Sprinklers are now banned and all hoses must be used with a trigger nozzle.

The use of hoses without trigger nozzles (pictured) will be banned from September 16. Source: AAP
The use of hoses without trigger nozzles (pictured) will be banned from September 16. Source: AAP

Cleaning of pathways and hard surfaces is prohibited.

Hunter Water has vowed to take a firm stance on the restrictions where individuals can be fined $220 and businesses $550 for breaching them.

“It’s really important we work together to save water,” Hunter Water Chief Investment Officer, Darren Cleary said earlier this month.

“By making small, simple changes at home, we all could be using about four buckets of water less per day.

“Things like reducing our showers to four minutes and ensuring our rainwater tanks are working properly can make a big difference in how much water we use.”

Earlier this month, volunteer Melissa Turner documented the devastating effect the drought is having on NSW’s farmers.

Sydney facing further restrictions

The announcement came as Sydney faces the possibility of entering level two restrictions with Sydney's dam storage levels now below 50 per cent for the first time in 12 years.

Greater Sydney's dam capacity this week fell to 49.7 per cent, according to Water NSW, which is 0.4 per cent down from the previous week.

That means dam levels are below 50 per cent for the first time since 2007. They initially dropped under the halfway mark in 2004.

The NSW government in May introduced Level one water restrictions early when greater Sydney's capacity was at 53.5 per cent.

Level one restrictions are compulsory when dam levels fall to 50 per cent.

Level two water restrictions are triggered when dam levels fall to 40 per cent, according to the Metropolitan Water Plan.

The Bureau of Meteorology's spring climate outlook has forecast a drier than average season for most of mainland Australia, with less than 200mm of rain expected across the Sydney area.

With AAP

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