The NSW Government and Sydney Water have just made the exciting announcement that Level 1 Water Restrictions have been relaxed as of 1 December 2020. That doesn't mean it's open season for hoses, though - the restrictions have been replaced with some simple yet sensible Water Wise Guidelines, aimed at encouraging sustainable water use around homes and gardens to ensure there's enough for everyone, both now and into the future. Want to know how it affects you and your garden? Read on!


Watering lawns and gardens under Water Wise Guidelines for residents

You can... You can't...
Water lawns and gardens before 10am and after 4pm using...

  • A hand-held hose fitted with an instant on-off mechanism, such as a trigger nozzle
  • A standard sprinkler
  • A standard watering system

Water lawns and gardens any time using...

  • Drip irrigation systems
  • A smart watering system
  • Allow water to run off on to hard surfaces, such as paths or roadways.
  • Leave hoses and taps running unattended.

Fines of $220 apply to individuals and $550 to businesses caught failing to comply with the Water Wise Guidelines.

Information from Sydney Water. Last updated 4/12/20.


What is a smart watering system?

Sydney Water provides the following definition for a smart watering system, as opposed to a standard watering system:

A ‘smart watering system’ is a system that's controlled by a device that responds to changes in weather and/or water demand from sensors. They are programmed to automatically adjust watering patterns based on weather and soil conditions. These watering programs must be optimised for local conditions and aimed at helping your plants survive the summer heat rather than growth.


Under Water Wise Guidelines, you can use a hose with a trigger nozzle to water your garden before 10am and after 4pm.


Establishing a new garden or turf under Water Wise Guidelines

Under the Water Wise Restrictions, you should have no issues establishing a new garden or new turfed area. Sydney Water provides the following guidance for watering new gardens:

You can... You can't...
Water new lawns and gardens at any time for 28 days after installation using...

  • A hand-held hose fitted with a trigger nozzle
  • A sprinkler or watering system

You must ensure you are watering in line with the instructions provided by your supplier or garden care professional. Once the initial 28 day period is up, you must revert to the guidelines outlined above for all other gardens.

  • Allow water to run off on to hard surfaces, such as paths or roadways.
  • Leave hoses and taps running unattended.

Fines of $220 apply to individuals and $550 to businesses caught failing to comply with the Water Wise Guidelines.

Information from Sydney Water. Last updated 4/12/20.


What if the Water Wise Guidelines don't work for me?

These guidelines reflect best-practice watering, and in most cases adhering to them will actually help you get the very best out of your garden. However, if you have a legitimate and important reason that you require lenience - for example, if you rely on the assistance of a carer to help water your garden and they're not able to assist during the appropriate times of day - you can apply to Sydney Water for a special exemption. If you already had an exemption in place from the Level 1 Water Restrictions, your exemption is still valid and you don't need to reapply.


What else can I do around my garden?

There's plenty you can do under these guidelines to keep your home and garden looking great and well cared for. Here are a few important updates. For the full run-down, visit Sydney Water.

You can now...

  • use water to cool people or animals, or to clean your pets, provided you don't leave water running unattended.
  • fill a new or renovated pool, spa or pond, or top-up an existing one to replace water lost by evaporation, firefighting or other similar activities, provided you don't allow it to overflow.
  • wash your car using a trigger nozzle hose, high pressure hose or a bucket, as long as you don't leave the water running unattended.
  • use a trigger nozzle or high pressure hose to clean buildings - that includes walls, windows, gutters and more - but again, make sure you don't leave the water running unattended.

Using water to clean hard surfaces like paths, pavers, driveways and decks is still a no-no, unless it's necessary for health, safety, emergency or surface contamination reasons, or part of a construction activity such as resurfacing. If your reason falls into this category you may use a trigger nozzle or high pressure hose to clean your surface, but where possible, a broom or a bucket and mop are the preferred cleaning methods. Remember, these guidelines are enforceable, with fines applicable.


Under the new Water Wise Guidelines, you can use a sprinkler to water your garden before 10am or after 4pm.


A note on alternative water types

It's worth noting that the Water Wise Guidelines apply only to the use of regular drinking water in and around your home or business. Alternative water types, including recycled water, grey water, rain water, bore water and river water, aren't limited by these guidelines. At Flower Power, we're strong advocates for the use of recycled water - and throughout our garden centres, distribution centre and growing nurseries, we employ a range of drinking water conservation strategies including rainwater tanks, redirection of garden bed overflow water, and the use of dam and bore water. We encourage our customers to consider ways that they can do the same, for example installing rainwater tanks and using grey water from around the home to water the garden.


Best-practice watering

We're the garden people for a reason - we know how to get the best out of your garden, and a lot of that comes down to knowing how and when to water. We've got a few water-wise tips of our own for you - use these in conjunction with the Water Wise Guidelines and your garden's sure to thrive!


Tip 1. Get the timing right.

Believe it or not, watering before 10am or after 4pm is actually ideal for your plants - and for you! It means you're avoiding being outdoors in the hottest part of the day, plus it gives the water an opportunity to soak right down into the root zone so the plants can use it, instead of evaporating under the hot summer sun.


Tip 2. Use a targeted approach.

Don't get too crazy with the hose - most of the time, your plants won't draw much benefit from watering their foliage, and in a lot of cases, wet leaves can lead to fungal issues including powdery mildew. Focus your watering around the root zone of the plant - for smaller plants this will be right around the stem, whereas for larger trees it might be a wider radius around the trunk. Targeting the water at the root zone means your plant will get the full benefit without any wastage.


Tip 3. Mulch matters.

Mulch is not just cosmetic - it actually performs a few really practical functions. The first is that it shields the soil from the sun, helping to keep it cool. This helps to prevent evaporation, in turn keeping moisture locked into the soil for longer and reducing the need for constant watering. Secondly, if you choose an organic mulch, as it breaks down it will enrich the soil with plenty of beneficial nutrients. What's not to love? You can choose between organic mulches, such as sugar cane and bark, which need regular replacing, or inorganic mulches, like gravel and pebbles, which don't break down but are a little more effective in the soil cooling stakes. A layer of 5cm of any mulch over the top of your soil should do the trick. Browse our range of mulches here.


Tip 4. Soil's little helpers.

When the weather is hot and dry, sometimes your soil will harden and dry out - and when this happens, it can become hydrophobic, meaning it actively repels moisture. If you're finding your soil or potting mix is hard to wet, or you notice water pooling and running off rather than soaking in a soil wetting agent such as Amgrow Wettasoil will help it to absorb and retain water. Amgrow Water Crystals are also a great addition when planting to help hold water in your plants' root zone, while Yates Waterwise Drought Shield Spray should be a standard addition to every gardener's kit to help prevent too much transpiration leading to a dehydrated plant.


Tip 5. Train your plants.

It's important to manage your plant's expectations when it comes to water. No, seriously! If you give your plants a dribble or sprinkle of water each day, they'll adapt their needs to that. Their roots will grow in a shallow way and they'll rely on that daily water sprinkle. By training your plants to expect the occasional deep watering, without the sprinkles in between, you're doing them a favour. The water will reach and saturate the root zone, their roots will tend to grow deeper and stronger, and they'll thrive. Of course, different plants do have different water needs, and some are thirstier than others, but this is a great general rule of thumb.