Melbourne’s tough water limits will go on through the summer.
The state government recently announced that Melbourne’s Stage 3a water restrictions would stay in force until at least the end of March. The Target 155 campaign will also continue – in the year since it was introduced, Melbournians met the challenge, consuming an average of 153 litres per person per day.
“We’re about 100 gigalitres better than we were 12 months ago, which is roughly 100 days of water,” says Pat McCafferty, spokesperson for the Target 155 campaign. “But our storages are still at the second lowest level on record.”
Thanks to good spring rainfall and infrastructure improvements, water restrictions have begun to ease in many other parts of the state – to find out the rules in your area, ask your water retailer or visit the Our Water Our Future website.
McCafferty says that although most people have changed their habits, some confusion remains about the Stage 3a restrictions. “The most common pitfall is people watering outside their allocated watering days,” he says.
If you live in an even numbered property you may water your garden on Saturdays and Tuesdays. Odd numbered households can water on Sundays and Wednesdays.
Manual dripper systems, watering cans and hand-held hoses with trigger nozzles can be used between 6 am and 8 am on the allocated days (households with a resident over 70 can choose to water between 8 am and 10 am instead). If you’ve got an automatic dripper system, you can set it for between midnight and 2 am.
It’s prohibited to water your lawns or wash your car at home. “You can spot wash the windows with a bucket, but if you want to wash your whole car you have to take it to an efficient commercial car wash,” McCafferty says.
If your consumption is high, the bathroom is the first place to look – that’s where about half the household’s water goes down the drain. “We’ve still got thousands of efficient showerheads to give away for free, so contact your water retailer to exchange your old one and to receive a four-minute shower timer,” he says.
Once you’ve changed your habits and fittings, you’ll have to splash out to cut down further. “You can hardwire things into your home to make it more sustainable,” McCafferty says. “Things like drought tolerant plants, efficient appliances, and rainwater and greywater systems that capture and reuse water.”
For city veggie gardeners, any tactic helps. The continued Stage 3a restrictions make it tricky to keep the crop from wilting between watering days. Jonathan Pipke from the Food Gardeners Alliance argues that green thumbs should be allowed to water more regularly, so long as they stay within the 155-litre target. “There are all kinds of benefits to growing your own vegetables at home. On average, you use one-ninth the water of commercial producers.”
Despite his concerns, Pipke says it’s still possible to reap a bountiful harvest under the water restrictions. “But you have to be very diligent and prepare well for hot days.” He recommends rigging shade cloth over your garden and putting pots in the shade. It’s also wise to collect and reuse clean water around house, such as the water from washing your vegetables. “Because of the heat, you want to water minimally, but more often – don’t let the soil dry out and then over soak it.”