Managing water use
Current water restrictions
There are NO current water restrictions in force for the MidCoast region. We thank MidCoast residents for their efforts to conserve water during the water restriction period.
NSW North Coast water restrictions system
When water restrictions are required, they are implemented as part of a four-step system 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.
High restrictions – level 2
Limit the use of water outdoors to handheld hoses for no more than 30 minutes every second day, before 9am or after 4pm. Garden irrigation systems can be used for 15 minutes as part of the 30 minute 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.
Severe restrictions – level 4
Ban all outdoor water use.
The first three levels of 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.
For further information about what is and what is not allowed at each level, read more in our restriction fact sheets.
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 the dam is at less than 50 per cent of the easily accessible storage. 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.
Saving water in the home
In the kitchen
Use a plug when you're washing up – and look after our sewerage system by using a sink strainer to capture things that belong in the bin not down the drain.
By starting with a 3-star kitchen tap, you'll have enough flow to fill your sink, saucepan or water jug quickly. But you'll also save water every time you wash your hands or anything else.
Remember, every inefficient or leaking tap that uses hot water is also wasting energy.
In the laundry
Just like in your kitchen, your taps and appliances can provide the biggest water savings in the laundry.
The key to water efficiency is a combination of a 3-star laundry tap and at least a 4-star, front loading washing machine. Together, these can save you about 18,000 litres of water each year.
Considering the number of times you use hot water in the laundry, you can also make significant energy savings when you switch to efficient taps and appliances.
Beware of combination washer-dryers. These machines save space, but some models can be big water users.
Condenser dryers rely on a constant flow of cool water to remove excess heat and evaporated moisture during the drying cycle. The water used for this cooling process isn't reclaimed or stored, it just runs to the drain.
In the bathroom
Change to a 3-star shower head and you could save $50 to $100 a year in water and energy costs.
Consider installing a flow controller if you don’t want to change your shower head. It doesn't change the look of your existing shower head and provides an efficient flow.
Choose new 3-star taps, including lever, mixer and quarter-turn styles. They use about half the amount of water as a standard tap.
Fit an aerator to your tap if you don’t want to change its look. Aerators reduce the flow of water without reducing the pressure. They can reduce the amount of water you use by more than 50%.
Change your single flush toilet to a 4-star dual flush toilet and you'll save about 25,000 litres of water a year.
Make your single flush toilet more water efficient by adjusting the float valve in the cistern or installing a cistern weight. Adjusting the float valve will reduce the amount of water needed to fill your cistern for each flush. Using a cistern weight means you control how much water is used for each flush when you hold the button down.
Check your toilet isn't leaking. Place a small piece of dry toilet paper at the back of the toilet bowl and check that it stays dry until the next flush. You can also place some drops of food dye in the cistern. Toilet cisterns shouldn't release any water between flushes. A leaking toilet can waste over 16,000 litres of water a year.
Ensure the plugs in your bath and basin don't leak. Buy new plugs if the existing ones don't completely seal the drain.
Don't leave the basin tap running while you brush your teeth. Fill a glass for rinsing your mouth and the basin.
When soaping your hands, turn off the water while you lather.
Don't leave the tap running while having a shave. Half-fill the basin with water for rinsing your face and the razor.
Reuse tap water by keeping a container in your basin. Use the water later on garden beds and pot plants.
An instantaneous hot water heater will ensure water stays hot, reducing the need to waste water as you wait for it to heat up.
Look into purchasing taps fitted with infra-red sensors that only run the water when your hands are under the tap.
Summer water savers
Our summer water savers program applies throughout the MidCoast region from Sunday 7 October 2018.
It is a voluntary program which asks residents to be mindful of their water use during the day and aims to reduce the amount of water we use during the warmer months.
This program covers all water supply schemes in the MidCoast Council area and applies to households, businesses, parks, gardens and sporting fields.
The program's main message is simple - refrain from using sprinklers and hoses between 9am and 4pm during daylight saving months.
Supporting the summer water savers program not only helps water supplies, but it is also more effective for gardens.
Watering during the heat of the day is inefficient as the water evaporates before the plants have a chance to benefit - wasting water and money.
Top outdoor summer water saving tips:
- Don't spray in the middle of the day!
- Use a watering can instead of a hose
- Cover your pool
- Put a trigger nozzle on your hose
- Use a broom to sweep up garden debris instead of a hose
- Mulch, mulch and more mulch
- Let the sky do the work (don't spray if rain's on its way)
- Install a rainwater tank
- Love a longer lawn
Enjoy your pool and save water
Saving water doesn't mean not enjoying it!
Along with fitting water saving devices in your home, there are plenty of things you can do around your pool area to save our precious drinking water - and get the most out of what is a fun, family activity in your own backyard.
Cover your pool
Evaporation is a major cause of water loss from your swimming pool. it is important to remember that most evaporation occurs in the early evening. One of the easiest and most effective ways of saving water is to use a pool cover. Without a pool cover, over half the water in your pool can evaporate in a year. There are a number of other benefits too.
A pool cover can:
- reduce the need to use chemicals
- reduce algal growth
- increase the water temperature by reducing heat loss
- reduce general pool maintenance by catching debris and leaves.
Prevent water loss from splashing
Avoid overfilling your pool as this will prevent your filter from working effectively and will cause water to overflow. The water level should be about half way up the skimmer box opening for the filter to function properly. If you wish to allow the water level of your pool to drop below this, you will need to purchase a T-piece suction line which connects to the skimmer box, allowing the filter to function normally.
You should concentrate on keeping the water in the pool. Try the following:
- no bombs or getting out of the pool and jumping back in
- drip dry on the top step so the water goes back into the pool
- if you need to top up, get those who use the pool to top it up with a bucket after use so they are conscious of the amount of water used.
Regularly check for leaks
Leaks can easily develop in the pool's membrane and piping. Even a small leak can waste 7000 litres per year. These can be difficult to detect so it is recommended that you have your pipes pressure tested on installation of your pool, then once every three years.
- backwash only when necessary
- check regularly for cracks and leaks
- keep the pool and filters clean to reduce frequency of filter backwashing
- if acid has been used to clean the pool, the water should be neutralised.
How can pool chemicals save water?
By maintaining the correct balance of chemicals in your pool year round, you will prevent your pool water from going green over winter. This means you won't need to empty and refill the pool and it will also prevent you from having to discard polluted water.
Other water saving ideas
Plants - carefully select plants for around the pool to protect your pool from wind, which increases the amount of water lost to evaporation.
Shade cloth - place a shade cloth over the entire pool area. This will reduce evaporation and reduce the risk of sunburn while enjoying your pool.
Skimmer box - keep the water level of your pool halfway up the skimmer opening. Overfilling the pool stops the skimmer working efficiently and wastes water.
Rainwater tank - consider installing a rainwater tank to provide an alternative water supply which can be used to water your garden, wash your car or flush your toilets.
The following information has been supplied by the Manning Water Users Association to provide information to the general community about irrigation practices in the Manning.
What farms in the Manning irrigate?
Many different farms in the Manning River catchment irrigate, including dairy and beef producers and citrus and vegetable growers. Some farms irrigate almost all year round; some small ‘hobby’ farms irrigate only for a few days every year. There are some 180 irrigation licence holders along the rivers and creeks which make up the Manning catchment but only a relatively small number (perhaps 30 or so) are irrigating regularly throughout the year.
Why is irrigation necessary?
Irrigation helps fill the ‘gap’ between rainfall events. Historically, most of the Manning’s rainfall occurs in February-April (sometimes in damagingly heavy falls). In spring, when pastures and many crops are demanding water to thrive, it is often dry and summers can be very hot and dry, so established pastures and crops can be damaged if they cannot be given a supplementary ‘drink’ with irrigation.
What types of irrigation systems are used in the Manning?
Different farms use very different irrigation systems. You might see ‘travelling’ irrigators, which comprise a big ‘gun’ on a frame winching itself along a steel cable anchored at one end of a paddock. Or ‘bikeshift’, low-pressure sprays close to the ground and moved in a star pattern using motor bikes. Sometimes aluminium pipes are laid out end-to-end; these have spray nozzles along one side. ‘Lateral’ and ‘pivot’ irrigators have large frames from which are hung many individual spray nozzles; they are self-propelled along the width of a paddock (‘lateral’) or in circles (‘pivot’). Citrus and vegetable growers and others use drip irrigation techniques.
Dairy farmers in particular often irrigate out of their effluent ponds, to recycle nutrients to paddocks away from the river. Various spray types are used for this so you cannot tell if it is effluent water being used just by looking at the irrigation system.
One irrigation technology you won’t see in the Manning is ‘flood irrigation’: laser-levelled paddocks that are periodically flooded for a period and then drained. This style of irrigation, often seen in the Murray-Darling basin and elsewhere, is not suited to the topography and soil types of the Manning.
I see some irrigation happening during daylight hours or on windy days: isn’t this wasteful, shouldn’t irrigation happen overnight or when it is still?
It depends on the irrigation technology and the circumstances of the individual farm. All irrigation is very costly: electricity or diesel for pumps; capital costs of pipework and equipment; maintenance costs; and labour to move irrigation around a farm. So farmers are highly motivated to not waste their irrigation water. Most farms do try to irrigate overnight or in the early morning/late afternoon when evapo-transpiration losses are lowest...but at certain times of the year (cooler months) or in certain weather conditions (high humidity), this is less important. Different irrigation technologies are more sensitive to wind: for example, big ‘gun’ travelling irrigators are not usually operated when it is very windy, but this is less important for low-pressure ‘bike shift’ irrigation. Finally, farm economics and safety factors come into play: for those with electric pumps, the availability of off-peak power is an important consideration when timing irrigation. And if staff are manually re-locating irrigation infrastructure around a farm, it may not be possible to do this safely at night.
Who licences irrigators and determines how much water they can extract?
In NSW, DPI Water licences irrigators. Licences set out how much water can be taken; and what size pumps and other equipment can be used; and precisely where pumps can be located and where water can be applied. MidCoast Council, the water supply authority for the Manning, Great Lakes and Gloucester areas, is not involved in licensing, regulating or supervising irrigation works in the Manning.
What are the current cease to pump arrangements for irrigators?
The Manning Water Users Association adopted cease to pump parameters in November 2014. They are - when the flow in the Manning River is:
1. >41ML but <51 ML for four consecutive days: cease pumping on weekends with no increase in normal weekday daily pumping times (if unmetered) or volumes (if metered) OR alternatively and at the farmer's discretion, pump only between the hours of 5pm and 8am (i.e. overnight).
2. >30ML but <41ML for four consecutive days: reduce pumping by 50 per cent (if metered) or to every second day with no increase in normal daily pumping times (if metered).
3. <31ML for four consecutive days: cease pumping
4. In any of the above circumstances, members recommence pumping only when flows are >50ML for four consecutive days
What is the Manning Water Users Association and how does it operate?
The Manning Water Users Association (WUA) is a voluntary group comprising irrigators from throughout the Manning catchment, including people who draw water from the Manning, Upper Manning, Avon, Gloucester and Barrington rivers and from Dingo Creek. The WUA meets from time to time throughout the year to discuss topics related to river health and irrigation practices. The WUA meets more frequently (sometimes weekly!) during times of threatened or low water flow to agree on reduced-pumping or cease-pumping flow levels and re-commence points. Although these points are determined formally by DPI Water, the Manning WUA has a history of voluntarily imposing restrictions on members before these official restriction points are reached. The WUA invites anyone with an interest in the health of the Manning catchment to attend its meetings (though only licensed irrigators can vote and stand for committee positions); MidCoast Water Services is a valued participant in most WUA deliberations.
Interested in more information?
The Manning WUA can be contacted by writing to:
The Secretary, Manning Water Users Association, 400 Bungay Road, WINGHAM NSW 2429.
Greywater and how to use it
Greywater is wastewater you can collect from your shower, bath, washing machine rinse cycle, hand basins and laundry tub. It does not include water from the toilet, kitchen sink or dishwasher. Greywater replaces the need to use mains water for watering gardens or lawns, and can potentially save thousands of litres of drinking water each year.
It does contain micro-organisms, chemical and physical contaminants such as nutrients, dirt, lint and sand, so you must keep this in mind and it use it sparingly in the garden to avoid salt or nutrient overload.
Benefits of greywater
Reusing greywater provides a number of benefits - as well as reducing the amount of drinking water you use.
It can help to reduce the amount of treated water discharged to the environment, it can help to irrigate your garden during dry periods and can help to reduce your water bills.
However there are disadvantages to using greywater as there is a potential for pollution and undesirable health effects if the greywater is not reused correctly.
There is also the initial cost of a greywater system and plumbing requirements to consider.
If you wish to use untreated greywater (straight from your showers, baths and washing machines) in your garden, you can chose to either use a bucket or install a sub-surface irrigation system. Untreated water can only be irrigated using a sub-surface system, where the irrigation is buried at least 10cm below the surface of soil or mulch.
There are systems that can be purchased that can be connected to plumbing in your home to allow for the treatment of greywater and for its reuse in flushing toilets, washing machines and surface irrigation.
Greywater systems vary greatly in price, depending on the complexity of the system and the intended end-use for the water. A simple diverter can cost under $100, while complete treatment systems can cost several thousand dollars.
Do I need approval?
Customers are advised to contact us to determine what approvals they may need for greywater diversion devices.
For greywater diversion devices, any installations connected permanently to the house drainage are required to be inspected by MidCoast Council, as we have the responsibility of ensuring the installation of greywater devices meet the appropriate plumbing standards.
How to use greywater properly
- maintain your system to ensure it is working correctly
- use low phosphorus detergents
- diverted greywater (untreated) should only be used on the garden and not always in the same spot
- apply diverted greywater to the garden by a below ground seepage pipe. This will reduce human exposure to the water
- Use greywater only during prolonged warm, dry periods: use only what you need to meet the plant's water requirements
- ensure greywater is diverted to the sewer during wet periods
- Install a diversion system that is 'fail-safe', where the greywater will automatically be diverted to the sewer if the greywater system blocks or malfunctions
- Stop using greywater if you smell odours and your plants do not appear to be healthy
- wash your hands after watering with greywater and after gardening in greywater irrigated areas
- use less fertiliser when irrigating with greywater
- ensure greywater does not contaminate any source of drinking water: extreme care must be taken to ensure there is no cross-connection between the greywater re-use system and the drinking water supply
- never water vegetable gardens if the crop is to be eaten raw
- never use greywater that has faecal contamination, for example: wastewater used to wash nappies
- never store untreated greywater for more than 24 hours
- never drink greywater or allow children or pets to drink or play with greywater
- never allow greywater to flow beyond your property boundary or enter stormwater systems
- do not use kitchen wastewater (including dishwashers) - it contains highly concentrated food wastes and chemicals that are not readily broken down by soil organisms
- do not allow greywater to pool or stagnate as this will attract insects and rodents, which may transmit disease
- never top up a rainwater tank or swimming pool with greywater
What is 'dirty' water?
'Dirty' water is a change in the appearance or the colour of your water - usually to a brown or yellow.
This discolouration is caused by trace materials within the water, such as iron or manganese. When these materials enter the water supply system they are in extremely low levels, however changes to the supply as it travels through the system can cause these materials to accumulate and become visible, discolouring the water.
Where and when does dirty water usually occur?
Residents living in areas furthest away from the nearest reservoir, or at the end of a street, may experience discolouration more frequently than others.
This is because the water has further to travel and this allows heavier particles to settle out of the water and become visible.
Weekenders or untenanted houses in any area may also experience discolouration when first turning on a tap after a period of time without using water at the home.
Discolouration can also be caused by old household connections as well as certain types of pipes. For example discolouration will occur more often in houses with galvanised water pipes. Galvanised pipes are no longer used in homes, with copper - or more recently polyethylene pipes have become the norm. Anyone who experiences regular water discolouration and has galvanised water pipes in their home may consider replacing them and should seek further advice and assistance from a local plumber.
Is dirty water considered a health hazard?
We constantly test the quality of drinking water in our area to ensure it complies with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, administered by NSW Health. Generally dirty water is not a hazard to health, although it may appear unpleasant.
What if I have milky or white coloured water?
Water that is milky or white in colour is the result of small air bubbles within the water.
This is usually due to air becoming trapped in the pipes - perhaps after the repair of a broken water main.
This water is harmless and if left in a container on the bench, the air will quickly dissipate and the water will become clear. It will not stain your washing.
Does dirty water affect washing?
Discolouration of the water supply by materials such as iron and/or manganese may cause a rust coloured stain on your clothing and linen while washing.
If you notice a discolouration in the water from your household taps, don't use your washing machine until the water is clear.
If you live in an area with frequent discolouration, regularly check your water before washing by running the tap in the laundry.
What should I do if I notice dirty water?
If you notice water discolouration in your home, we suggest you wait an hour or two then check that the water from your front tap (nearest to the water meter) is clear. If it is clear, go to the tap at the furthest point from your water meter (usually the garden tap in the backyard) and run the water for a few minutes until it also runs clear. If the water coming into your front tap is not clear contact us and we can arrange flushing of the water mains in the local area. While flushing is being undertaken, customers can experience very dirty water, however this will clear shortly afterwards.
MidCoast Council has over two thousand kilometres of water mains, so we are unable to monitor them all at the same time so we do rely on residents to advise us of any severe or ongoing discolouration to the water supply in order to take action in the immediate area.
WELS star water ratings
To encourage people to buy water-efficient products, there is a national standard for water-using products.
The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme, rates products on its water efficiency and performance.
Mandatory labelling applies to new washing machines, dishwashers, toilets, tapware and showerheads.
For more information go to www.waterrating.gov.au