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Where does my water come from? Illawarra, Sutherland Shire, Shoalhaven

With 100 per cent of NSW officially in drought in August last year, water restrictions have affected many Illawarra, Sutherland Shire and Shoalhaven residents. In 2019, our water authorities will again face the prospect of diminishing water supplies and the need to impose restrictions.

Between them the Sydney Water and Shoalhaven Water authorities have the responsibility for supplying water to the Illawarra, Sutherland Shire and Shoalhaven regions, treating used water and dispersing the treated water.

The operations of Sydney Water, Australia’s largest water utility, cover 12,700 square kilometres, and extend from Sydney  to the Illawarra and the Blue Mountains regions. Average daily water demand is 1.5 billion litres, provided to more than 1.8 million homes and businesses.

Shoalhaven Water is part of the City of Shoalhaven Council, which covers 4567 square kilometres and includes Nowra, Berry, Kiama, Sussex Inlet, Kangaroo Valley, Ulladulla and Lake Conjola. Shoalhaven Water provides more than 45 million litres of water daily to more than 48,000 homes and businesses.

If you live in the Illawarra, Sutherland Shire and Shoalhaven regions, you may be wondering how water authorities keep you informed of water supply levels and restrictions, and what new actions they will take to conserve our water resources.

How to find out about water restrictions

The Bureau of Meteorology website provides  current water restrictions information for Sydney and other parts of Australia, including the Eurobodalla area, which is currently under Level 2 restrictions.

The Sydney Water and Shoalhaven Water websites provide further details on local water restrictions, including announcements, for example when a level one restriction has been lifted.

What do the Water Restriction Levels Mean?

Especially in regional areas, water authorities may refer to Restrictions as ‘Level One’ or ‘Level Two’, and up to Level Five – Emergency Level. As a general guide, Levels One to Three in the Shoalhaven area may include the following restrictions:

Sprinklers, irrigation and unattended hoses:    

Level 1:   No sprinklers at any time; drippers only

Level 2:   No sprinklers at any time; drippers only

Level 3:   No sprinklers at any time; drippers only

Hand-watering gardens and lawns:    


Level 1:  No weekly limit,

Level 2:   3 times weekly, before 10am or after 4pm

Level 3:   2 times weekly, before 10am or after 4pm

Washing of vehicles, boats and caravans: 


Level 1:  No weekly limit. Wash on grassed surface

Level 2:  3 times weekly, before 10am or after 4pm.

Level 3:   Wash on grassed surface 2 times weekly, before 10am or after 4pm.

Topping up existing swimming pools:   

Level 1:   No restrictions if hand-held hose or hose fixed to a timer.

Level 2:    No filling pools over 10,000L without permit

Level 3:    No filling pools over 10,000L without permit

Washing down paved areas or Hard surfaces:  

Level 1:   No hosing hard surfaces (paths, driveways, floors and buildings)

Level 2:   No hosing hard surfaces (paths, driveways, floors and buildings)

Level 3:   No hosing hard surfaces (paths, driveways, floors and buildings)


Water restrictions are pegged to the levels of the Bamarang Dam, which is the main water supply for the Shoalhaven. Level One Water restrictions began in the Shoalhaven areas in September 2018. The Level One restriction was lifted in December.

If your property is connected to town water and you also have a tank installed, water restrictions will still apply regardless.

Note that restrictions do not apply where your property is not connected to town water and you have a water tank, or if bore water is being pumped direct to gardens or lawns.

Find out about current restrictions at https://shoalwater.nsw.gov.au/About-Us/Systems-Operations/Water-Snapshot

Sydney metropolitan areas and the Illawarra

In Sydney the Water Wise Rules, “commonsense actions” designed for prolonged dry weather, came in place during June 2009, and these are permanently in place.  Sydney Water advises you can:

  • water lawns and gardens with a sprinkler, irrigation system or hose fitted with a trigger nozzle any day before 10 am and after 4 pm
  • use sprinklers or watering systems to establish new lawn and gardens at any time for the first 14 days
  • use water to cool people and animals
  • hose paths, driveways and other hard surfaces for safety, health, emergency, construction or surface discoloration reasons only
  • wash vehicles, trailers, boats or buildings using a bucket, high pressure cleaning equipment or a hose fitted with a trigger nozzle
  • use bore water, recycled water or rainwater (as long as the tank isn’t topped up from the drinking water supply). Some government restrictions apply to bore water and water extracted from rivers, so always check with your local council or WaterNSW.
  • use water for fire-fighting or to test fire systems.

What new measures are being introduced to conserve water and boost supplies in the Illawarra, Sutherland Shire and Shoalhaven?

Shoalhaven reclaims water for farms and sportsfields

The Shoalhaven Water’s Reclaimed Water Management Scheme (REMS) has grown into one of the largest and most complex schemes of its kind undertaken by a regional water authority in Australia.

The Scheme provides:

  • reclaimed water for beneficial purposes rather than being disposed into the environment
  • high quality irrigation water to the region’s farmers to improve their sustainability
  • sufficient water to irrigate local sporting facilities and golf courses

So far, more than 20,000 megalitres have been beneficially reused through the REMS, about 70% of the reclaimed water produced.

The scheme REMS 1B is at its half way mark and a decision on the river crossing linking the Nowra and Bomaderry sewage treatment plants was pending in March 2019.  Construction of new facilities at Bomaderry and Nowra sewage treatment plants (STPs) is approximately 50% complete and the design of a transfer main under the Shoalhaven River to connect the two plants has also been undertaken.

Greater Sydney turns brine into water

In Sydney, the desalination plant at Kurnell can provide up to 15% of drinking water needs when fully operational. A situation where the total dam storage levels dip below 60% is the trigger to commence restart procedures and the plant was switched on from 27 January 2019. It has been given eight months to restart and will operate for at least 14 months.


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