Water Restrictions

Current water restrictions

Severe (Level 4) restrictions are in force across the MidCoast region:

Fact Sheet - Residential & public areas - SEVERE Water Restrictions(PDF, 141KB)

Fact sheet - Businesses - SEVERE Water Restrictions(PDF, 141KB)

Poster - SEVERE Water Restrictions(PDF, 379KB)

except in Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens: Very High (Level 3) restrictions are in force:

Fact Sheet - Residential & public areas - VERY HIGH Water Restrictions(PDF, 313KB)  (Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens only)

Fact sheet - Businesses - VERY HIGH Water Restrictions(PDF, 400KB)  (Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens only)

(PDF, 371KB)Poster - VERY HIGH Water Restrictions(PDF, 371KB)  (Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens only)



22 January 2020  22 January 2020  20 January 2020   16 January 2020  15 January 2020  6 January 2020


30 December 2019 20 December (2)  20 December 2019  12 December 2019  3 December 2019  25 November 2019  19 November 2019  8 November 2019   5 November 2019    29 August 2019   16 August 2019    

Managing water supply during the 2019 drought

Refer here for information on our plans to manage and respond to the current drought conditions and supply additional water for the MidCoast water supply schemes. There are several sources of poor information seeking to create fear and panic in our community - this is the official and correct information. 

We will not run out of water - the following plans will be implemented if required, but our community will need to comply with water restrictions.

Manning / Great Lakes scheme


90% of our water customers are connected to the Manning Scheme. This covers areas such as Taree, Wingham, Forster, Tuncurry, Pacific Palms, Smiths Lake, Nabiac, Dyers Crossing, Krambach, Harrington, Coopernook, Hallidays Point, Lansdowne and in between.

The majority of the water for the Manning Scheme is sourced from the Manning River. Water is pumped from the river, stored in Bootawa Dam, and treated at the Bootawa Water Treatment Plant.  A portion of the water supply for the scheme is sourced from the Nabiac Inland Dune Aquifer and treated at the Nabiac Water Treatment Plant (which was commissioned in early 2019). The Nabiac Scheme was designed to provide an alternate source to manning river.

Current Situation

We are currently experiencing the worst drought on record based on local history back to 1880. It is 20% drier than 1994, the previous driest year on record. Average rainfall conditions are predicted to return in February 2020.

The conditions have resulted in the Manning River flowing below 50 megalitres per day (ML/d) for 38 days, compared to the previous record of 26 consecutive days.

With the deterioration of conditions and introduction of harsher restrictions, the Nabiac Borefield is producing 6 ML/d.

If we were to do nothing else, then the Manning Scheme would have approximately 2-3 months before the storage at Bootawa is exhausted. After this the system would run entirely off the Nabiac borefield on a limited supply.

Demand Reduction

Our community is already one of the most water efficient communities in NSW (Average Annual Residential Water Supplied (potable) from DPIE’s LWU performance monitoring data and reports for 2017-18).

We have previously invested in significant improvements for water quality, distribution capacity and service reliability. We have also invested in water demand management. We use significantly less water now than we did 20 years ago despite the population growth that has occurred in that time.

We have never implemented the equivalent of level 4 restrictions before. 

Our Response Plan to the Current Drought

Maximising Production at Nabiac Borefield

On 1 December we brought four additional production bores online. We expect this to increase production by two million litres of water per day.

We are also optimising each of the existing pumps in the bore field by setting them at a lower level in the bores. This will increase flows by 1-2 litres per second from each pump. It is estimated to increase production by approximately one million litres of water day.

We are bringing part of the Stage 2 expansion of Nabiac, planned for 2025, forward to early 2020, with five additional bores to be installed during January –February 2020, bringing the total number of bores to 23. This will produce up to seven million litres of water per day.

Nabiac temporary desalination plant

Update 15 January: 

MidCoast Council has confirmed 1.7 kilometres of pipe that was ready to be line laid as part of the temporary desalination project at Nabiac has been vandalised.

The cost of the damage is unknown at this stage and will depend whether the pipe is repaired or replaced. While Council will be working through this issue with the contractor and insurers, it will result in a delay to the vital project.

This will place pressure on the delivering of MidCoast Council’s drought response plan and the security of the water supply for the entire Manning and Great Lakes area.

NSW Police are undertaking an investigation into the matter and Council won’t be commenting further.

Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence.

The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages


We are progressing a further option for increasing our supply - the establishment of a temporary mobile desalination plant near the Nabiac Borefield with further capacity of 5.5 million litres per day.

Salt water will be extracted from the Wallamba River, treated at the temporary desalination plant and provided to supplement the Manning and northern Great Lakes areas. The existing Nabiac Water Scheme has infrastructure that can transfer water north to the Taree area as well as south of the Forster area.

The Review of Environmental Factors(PDF, 7MB) has been completed. and we are working with the NSW Government to obtain the required licences and approvals.

For more information on the temporary desalination plant project, read:

Nabiac Temporary Desalination Plant fact sheet(PDF, 995KB) - updated 6 January 2020.

Previous version: Nabiac Temporary Desalination Plant fact sheet(PDF, 988KB) - published 24 December 2019.

The actions to increase production at Nabiac have been plotted on the graph shown below together with the actual data over the past few months. 




The implementation of additional bores at Nabiac and the temporary desalination plant will mean we will not run out of water, however will need to continue on Level 4 water restriction until normal rainfall conditions return.

Any rainfall that occurs between now and February 2020 will only improve this situation. 

Gloucester scheme 

The Gloucester scheme is dependent on the Barrington River flow. The Barrington River has now ceased to flow for the first time since records began.

From 23 January 2020, we're beginning the transition back to pumping Gloucester’s water supply from the Barrington River, after substantial rain in the catchment in mid-January. We are working towards returning the Gloucester water treatment plant to normal operations which will take a few days, and gradually transitioning to supplying Gloucester with water extracted from the River.

Since late December 2019, we have been trucking water from the Tea Gardens Aquifer to Gloucester to fill town reservoirs after the Barrington River ceased to flow. The trucks will continue to provide a supplement to the water supply, with Council gradually reducing the number of trips as the plant comes back online.

Stroud and Bulahdelah schemes

With strict adherence to Severe Level 4 water restrictions, it's expected these supply systems will be sufficient for the summer months. In the worst case, with no rainfall throughout summer, our plan is to provide emergency water in the same manner as Gloucester.

Tea Gardens /Hawks Nest scheme 

The Tea Gardens Hawks Nest scheme is a little more secure than the other river flow dependent schemes, as it is supplied by a good aquifer. However, during this drought, the aquifer levels have dropped, so Tea Gardens / Hawks Nest water customers are required to comply with Very High Level 3 water restrictions.

On holidays? Restrictions for visitors

We hope you enjoy your stay with us and share the love we have for our beautiful region. We are currently experiencing severe water shortages, and this summer we need your help to save water wherever possible. Please help us by following these water-saving measures during your stay.

Fact Sheet - Level 4 severe restrictions for visitors(PDF, 373KB)    

Fact Sheet - Level 3 Very High restrictions for visitors(PDF, 374KB)

Bathroom poster(PDF, 99KB)             

Tips for water saving on holidays - outside

• Choose to dip in the ocean, river or lake (instead of the pool)

• When enjoying the pool, keep water in the pool as much as possible - don’t bomb or dive, and drip dry on the steps before exiting

• No car washing is permitted

• Boat motors may be flushed for 3 minutes only, preferably using recycled water

Be water-wise in the kitchen

• Only put the dishwasher on if it’s full

• Don’t rinse dishes under running water

• Don’t overfill the sink

Go slow on the H₂O - in the bathroom

• Take shorter showers

• Use the half-flush on toilets

• Reuse towels, don't put them out for washing every day

• Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth

• Use the sink to catch water for shaving and washing - don’t run the tap

Use less - in the laundry

• Take your laundry home to wash

• Full loads only for washing machines

Report any leaking or dripping taps to management.

Thank you for caring for our beautiful region.

NSW North Coast water restrictions system

When water restrictions are required, they are implemented as part of a four-step system (although on the MidCoast we do not use Level 2) that is common across the NSW north coast.



Moderate restrictions (Level 1)

Restrict outdoor water use to handheld hoses for no more than one hour per day, every second day, before 9am or after 4pm. Garden irrigation systems can be used for 15 minutes as part of the one hour allocation.

Very high restrictions (Level 3)

Further restricts the use of water outdoors to handheld hoses for a maximum of 10 minutes, every second day, before 9am or after 4pm.

Moderate and Very High restrictions allow watering every second day.

This works in the following way: If your house is an even number then you can water on the even days of the month, the 2nd, 4th, 6th etc if your house in an odd number, then you can water on the odd days of the month, the 1st, 3rd, 5th etc. There is no residential outside water use on the 31st of the month.

Severe restrictions (Level 4)

Ban all outdoor water use.

For further information about what is and what is not allowed at each level, read more in our restriction fact sheets.

Emergency restrictions

A further level, emergency restrictions, could be enacted if the situation becomes very serious and water supplies are running low. Depending on the particular situation, Council would advise residents of what they are required to do in this case. 

When do we consider water restrictions?

MidCoast Council operates five water supply schemes – four of which are reliant on the flows of nearby rivers.

The Manning scheme, which provides water to customers from Crowdy Head in the north to Tarbuck Bay in the south, draws its water from the Manning River. We have a storage dam at Bootawa, which is filled by pumping water from the Manning River just upstream from Wingham.

This pumping is reliant on good flows in the river. The Gloucester water supply is similarly reliant on flows in the Barrington River, Stroud on the Karuah River and Bulahdelah on the Crawford River.

It is when river levels fall too low to allow pumping and storage dams can’t be kept at capacity that we may need to look at introducing water restrictions.

Once we can no longer pump from the river and the dam/storage starts to fall, we usually move into 'moderate' water restrictions. 'Moderate' restrictions limit the use of water outdoors to one hour every second day with a handheld hose.

'Severe' restrictions are usually implemented on the Manning scheme when water storage levels drop to between 50% - 73% capacity. These restrictions ban all outdoor water use and urge the community to be careful with their indoor use.

An emergency restriction period is entered when we are forced to draw into the deep storage of Bootawa Dam.

A similar situation operates for the Barrington, Karuah and Crawford rivers. As these areas rely on their own water source, sometimes we do have different towns on different water restriction levels.

The Tea Gardens/Hawks Nest water supply is sourced from an underground aquifer and is not as dependent on seasonal climatic variations, however at times restrictions may be required.

Your business and water restrictions

Severe (Level 4) restrictions are in force across the MidCoast region:

Fact sheet - Businesses - Severe Water Restrictions

Fact sheet - Water restrictions for landholders on town water supplies(PDF, 2MB)

except in Hawks Nest / Tea Gardens, where Very High Water Restrictions are in force:  

Fact sheet - Businesses - Very High Water Restrictions(PDF, 400KB)  

If you’re operating a business on the MidCoast, you may face some challenges during water restrictions periods. We recognise that you play a vital role in our community, providing important services, economic security and employment – and enhancing our community’s sense of well-being and lifestyle.

We want to work with you to ensure any impact on your business is minimised, while conserving as much water as possible during restrictions.

The following information provides you with a guide to how you are required to implement water restrictions, which are mandatory.

If you require more information, you can ask us anything about your business and water restrictions on the form below.

When water restrictions are required, they are implemented as part of a four-step system (although on the MidCoast we do not use Level 2) that is common across the NSW north coast.

At all levels, if you’re using water outside for non-production purposes (eg. watering your business premises’ garden, or washing work vehicles) you’re required to comply with the same restrictions as residential water customers. For production-related water use, check the fact sheets below, or contact us via the online form below.

Moderate restrictions (Level 1)

At this level businesses are required to restrict outdoor water use, with some exemptions. If you require exemptions, or would like to develop a water management plan, please complete the online form below.

For a guide to restrictions at this level, check the Business Moderate Restrictions fact sheet(PDF, 80KB).

Very High restrictions (Level 3)

Tighter restrictions apply for businesses using water outdoors. You should contact us to complete a water management plan at this level of restrictions, by completing the online form below.

For a guide to restrictions at this level, check the Business Very High Restrictions fact sheet(PDF, 77KB).

Severe water restrictions (Level 4)

Most outdoor water use is banned, unless you have an agreement, via a water management plan, in place with Council.

For a guide to restrictions at this level, check the Business Severe Restrictions fact sheet(PDF, 91KB).


A further level, emergency restrictions, could be enacted if the situation becomes very serious and water supplies are running low. Depending on the particular situation, we will advise businesses of what you are required to do.

Need more help?

You can complete and submit the form below if you have more questions, or require any assistance with implementing water restrictions for your business.

Click here to view form.

Water Restrictions - Q and A s

Below are some frequently asked questions about water restrictions. If your question relates to your business, please submit the form on the business section above instead of here.

Severe (Level 4) restrictions specific questions:

Q: What are you doing to manage the water supply? Will we run out of water?

A: No - we will not run out of water, although our emergency water supply plans rely on everyone adhering to water restrictions. Please scroll up this page to the section called "Managing water supply during the 2019 drought" for an answer to this question, specific to your water supply scheme.

Q: Can I buy water to top up my pool or to water my garden?

A: Under Severe Level 4 water restrictions, carting of water from the MidCoast Council water supplies is only for the purposes of domestic (in house) uses. Unfortunately, the current scarcity of water means you can’t use locally sourced water for pools or gardens. You may be able to purchase water from outside the area, such as Newcastle (Hunter Water).
Talk to your pool supplier about how to maintain your pool during restrictions, and check out our pool tips here to reduce the amount of water lost from your pool. For gardens, collect grey water (put a bucket in your shower, and collect the washing machine rinse water) and use buckets and watering cans.

Q: Our dam is dry and we have no other water source. Can we use water carted from MidCoast water supplies to water our horses, or the town water supply?

A: At the moment, if you have absolutely no other water source, you can use bought water, or the town water supply, for pets and horses. We are currently looking for another source of water for stock watering, and will update here and publicise if and when that is available. 

Q: Can I use water to flush my boat motor?

A: As stated on the fact sheet, boat motor flushing is only permitted for 3 minutes, preferably using a container to recycle the flushing water. 

Q: I have a rainwater tank. Can I use this water for outside purposes?

A: If you live in town and you're on the town water supply, your rainwater tank is likely to be currently filled with town water due to the lack of recent rainfall. Properties constructed since BASIX requirements were implemented, are using town water externally once the tank water level has reached the town water top-up or changeover point. Even the small very light rainfall we've received in December won't be enough to top tanks up  - they're certain to contain town water. So please do not use this water externally – we need to conserve every drop right now.

Q: What will level 5 emergency restrictions involve if they are introduced?

A: If emergency Level 5 restrictions are required, the requirements may vary between different water supplies within the MidCoast region. You will be informed if any area is going to Level 5 emergency restrictions, and information will be provided to help you comply. Level 5 is likely to involve some restrictions on indoor commercial and residential use of water, to further reduce our total daily consumption.

Common questions:

Q: How do you decide when to introduce water restrictions?

A: We operate five water supplies across the region, four of which are dependent on river flows. Our pumps extract water from these rivers, into water storages in the case of the Stroud and Manning supplies. During periods of extended dry weather, if river levels drop below the pumps, we are unable to pump water to replenish the storages. This means we are reliant on the capacity of the water storage, and we can't top it up.

Our water restrictions system follows the four-step system commonly used by North Coast Councils. The system consists of four levels - Moderate, High, Very High and Severe. Each level is triggered when our water storages drop to a certain level, and each level has a daily usage target that we are aiming to reduce total consumption by.

For example, our largest scheme, the Manning has the following system:

Level:             Water storage capacity:       Summer season usage target:
Moderate                     <100%                                     24 Ml per day
Very high                     < 73%                                      20 Ml per day
Severe                         < 50% - 73%                           17 Ml per day

Q: Restrictions often seem to start when tourist season is over. Does visitor water use cause low water supply?

A: No. Decreased water supply is caused by low rainfall, which causes the river flows to drop. Over recent years, it has been typical for dry hot weather and increased evaporation to cause river levels to drop around the end of summer (into February). This is coincidentally the end of the holiday season.

Although it might seem that higher water use would cause scarcity of water, this isn’t the case with a river flow water supply. If the river is flowing above the pump levels, we keep pumping water to top up the water storages. Water restrictions would not make any difference, because even if everyone lowered their water use, we would still be able to keep the water storages full. The water we don't use flows downstream, and out to sea eventually.

Q: Why don’t you bring in water restrictions sooner?

A: We operate five water supplies across the region, four of which are dependent on river flows. Our pumps extract water from these rivers to water storages. During periods of extended dry weather, if river levels drop below the pumps, we are unable to pump water to replenish the storages. This means we are reliant on the capacity of the water storage, and we can't top it up.

However, while river flows are high enough to pump into our storages, we keep them topped up, at 100% capacity. There would be no point in introducing water restrictions, because we can keep the storages full using the river flows. 

It's a different situation when river levels drop and we can't pump into the storages. Then we only have the water in the storages until the next rainfall lifts river levels. That's when we need water restrictions and everyone to use less water.

Q: Would better planning / water management prevent the need for water restrictions?

A: Every day MidCoast Council is managing our water supply. Our employees monitor river flows, groundwater levels and water usage across the region, and check weather forecasts, long range weather information and rainfall patterns. The water storages and water treatment plants are operated for peak efficiency.

The MidCoast region has never run out of water and has an excellent history in provision of high quality potable water for our population.

A massive infrastructure injection (for example, building a much larger water storage) is not affordable or feasible for our population size at this point in time.  

Q: Do you consider future water security for our region?

A: We are working strategically on improving our water security. You can read the strategy “Our water, our future” on our Plans and Reports page (go to the drop-down item called 'Other strategic plans').

One step towards water security was the opening of the $34.6m Nabiac Aquifer Water Supply system in early 2019, which supplements the Manning scheme, drawing water form an inland dune aquifer. Read more here.

Q: How do I find out when water restrictions begin and end?

A: Water restrictions are always notified through local media - newspapers, radio and TV. Our website will also always notify prominently on our home page, and on this page. We also keep our Facebook followers notified. Other ways you will be notified include signage, posters and flyers, along with direct communication with businesses, schools and other water users and notification on your water account when restrictions are in force.

Q: How do I know what to do during water restrictions?

A: We produce a fact sheet for each level of restrictions which explains what is required. You can view these  above on this page. They are made publicly available at Council offices, libraries and other locations when restrictions are in force.

Q: Does Council and businesses have to reduce its water use during restrictions?

A: Yes. Council's parks and gardens employees have to comply with water restrictions along with local businesses, schools and other institutions with large water use. We work with businesses and other large consumers of water to put management plans in place during restrictions. Landholders with water extraction licences have 'cease to pump' requirements at low river levels - as does Council.

Some organisations may use treated recycled water, stored rain water (from tanks) or bore water. Outdoor use of this water is not subject to water restrictions.

Q: How do you monitor compliance? What can I do if someone else isn’t following water restrictions?

A: Council is empowered by legislation (Local Government Act) to issue fines for non-compliance with water restrictions. Generally, we find our residents are very compliant and cooperate with water restrictions and there is no need to issue fines.

If you spot a neighbour not complying with water restrictions, it's a good idea to check if they are using bore water or rainwater from a tank - these water sources are not subject to water restrictions.

If they are simply unaware of restrictions being in force, a friendly reminder may be all that's needed. If someone is deliberately ignoring the restrictions after being informed, or in extreme cases of wastage, please call us on 1300 133 455.

Q: Can we see the river flows and the water storage levels?

A: Water NSW has a public website which lists river flows across NSW. The Manning Scheme refers to the Killawarra readings, and the Stroud scheme to the Karuah readings. You can see them on the WaterNSW site. 

Our employees take other river level readings of the other schemes.

Water storage levels are not generally available, but may be communicated in our public messages to improve community understanding of any given situation.

Q: Do water restrictions affect our water bills? Will they be lower because of the introduction of water restrictions?

A: Your water rates include fixed amounts for water infrastructure and service, which includes not only the water supply system (water storages, water treatment plants, pumps, delivery pipes and mains), but also the sewerage system (pipes, mains and pumps that carry grey water and stormwater away from your property, sewage treatment plants). This amount does not change when water restrictions are in force.

You are also charged a fee for the water you use, so if you use less during the water restriction period, you will be charged a lesser amount for that part of your water account.

Q: Wasn't the Nabiac Inland Aquifer system supposed to 'drought-proof' the system?

A: No. The Nabiac Aquifer Water Supply became operational in early 2019 and provides between 6 million - 10 million litres per day to supplement the Manning scheme. In times of drought, the Aquifer's water level also drops, and the Scheme is subject to a cease-to-pump requirement, which would limit our ability to extract water. The Nabiac Aquifer scheme improves water security, making us less reliant on Manning River and providing diversification of risk as a second independent source of water.
More information on the Nabiac Aquifer system.

Q: Can town water be used for commercial purposes, for example can a primary producer use it to irrigate his crops? If yes does he need a permit to do so ?

A: There are some commercial users (including various industries) of town water supply throughout MidCoast's water supply areas. Commercial users are subject to special conditions, and are also required to adhere to water restrictions when they are in force. It is expensive for commercial users to use our water supply, so many find alternative water sources.
For irrigators, apart from on-farm water storages / dams, some have water licences issued from Water NSW to pump directly from rivers. Water NSW issues ‘cease to pump’ orders when river levels drop below certain levels (and MidCoast Council has to abide by those too).
There is no permit for an irrigator to use town water, however for new water connections, we would assess their estimated demand and they would pay the appropriate Water Developer Charges.

Q: Can we fill our new pool when water restrictions are in force?

A: Check out the fact sheets for the three water restrictions levels above, which outline when and how you can use outdoor water during water restriction periods. During Very High and Severe water restrictions, all outdoor water use is banned, so you can't fill or top up pools then. During Moderate water restrictions, it would be difficult to fill an empty pool complying with the time limits placed on outdoor water use. If you have an empty pool that you'd like to fill during water restrictions periods, you could buy water and have it delivered.

Q: Do water restrictions apply to spear or bore water on my property, or to water from rainwater tanks?

A: No. Water restrictions only apply to the town water supply. If you live in a suburban area (such as Tuncurry or Tea Gardens Hawks Nest) and you’re using bore or spear water to water, it’s good idea to put up a sign in your garden, so others are aware you’re not breaking water restrictions. It’s also a good idea to make sure you conserve water, even rainwater and bore water, during drought. Check out the tips on our summer water savers page, and consider limiting water to every second day, which is in line with moderate water restrictions anyway! 

Q: Why have I seen MidCoast staff allowing water to escape from hydrants and go down the drain during water restrictions?

A: This process is called “flushing” and it is an essential management tool used by water utilities whenever required. Delivering fresh, clean water that is a food grade product is a complex undertaking, and one we don’t often consider when we turn on a tap. On its path to your home from the water storage, occasionally our water quality detectors pick up that the chlorine levels in the water have dropped. This has serious implications for water hygiene. Alternatively, sometimes mains that carry the water to you break, and the water becomes contaminated, again this is an issue for water quality and hygiene.

The way we fix this is to repair pipes, then there is still contaminated water in the pipes, so we flush the dirty water out of the pipes and in the process draw chlorine through the pipework, to ensure your water will meet the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. We undertake this task as a requirement of our Drinking Water Management Plan.

During water restrictions, we make every possible effort to reduce the amount of water we need to flush, while ensuring your water quality meets the required hygiene standard. It's not possible to economically capture this water for reuse, because the cost of providing the special equipment and truck and transport of that water, along with the time it would add to these jobs, is prohibitive.