Wollongong's deputy mayor Tania Brown has called on the council to voluntarily move to tougher water restrictions for its parks and gardens, to set an environmental example as the drought wears on.
As Level 2 restrictions kick in for residents and businesses, Cr Brown said she had asked the council's general manager Greg Doyle to look at whether the city could voluntarily stop watering parks and gardens.
"We are about 100 days away from Level 3 restrictions, so I think we need to take action," she said.
"It's about getting together a priority list, looking at what we really need to maintain. The city is already dry, but I think we need to take a structured look at it from the council's perspective."
She noted sportsfields, the Botanic Garden and some public spaces would need some water, but said there was no reason why the council couldn't stop watering parks and gardens.
Unlike residents and businesses, the council is currently operating under less stringent restrictions as it seeks Sydney Water exemptions for certain water uses.
But Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the city had already made moves to cut its water use in many areas.
"Most of the city's parks and gardens already rely heavily on natural rainfall - and you can see that many of our green spaces are already suffering," he said.
The highest priority has to be to maintain life, and that means meeting public hygiene and safety standards as well as the immediate need for water.
"This is a small cost for us to pay - having our lawns and gardens go brown - when you consider what people in other parts of the state are going through where homes and lives are being threatened because of bushfires," he said. "This is the consequence of a drought, the magnitude of which we have never experienced, and we need to play our part."
"The highest priority has to be to maintain life, and that means meeting public hygiene and safety standards as well as the immediate need for water."
He said the council could seek exemptions in areas where there may be a public hygiene or public safety issue.
For example, he said water may be used if there was severe cracking of the ground, or for cleaning pools and public bathrooms.
At the Botanic Garden, Cr Bradbery said the council would prioritise exotic species and rare plants, and would be relying on rainfall to keep the rest of the garden alive.
Likewise, the trees in Crown Street Mall will continue to be maintained as long as the council can seek exemptions.
"That's because, if we lose them, the cost of replacing them is horrendous," he said.
"We will bring back water to the minimum levels it takes to keep them alive."
He said water-saving taps and flushing devices were already in place at public bathrooms and in the council building, which has one of the highest environmental ratings.
How Wollongong council operations are affected this summer
Parks, gardens, tree watering, community gardens:
- No new trees will be planted as part of Urban Greening - this decision will be reviewed in February.
- No new landscaping will occur within the LGA - this decision will be reviewed in February.
- Low-profile landscapes in parks will only be watered by water can to ensure plant survival.
- No watering of turf areas will occur across passive recreation sites (non sports grounds) within the LGA.
- No new turf will be installed in parks and gardens until further notice.
- Trees planted and still under establishment under the Urban Greening Strategy will be watered to ensure survival.
- High profile City landscapes will be watered including essential collections within the Botanic Garden.
- Large planters installed across CBD centres will be watered on a reduced schedule to ensure plant survival only.
Sports fields and Golf Course
- No sports fields renovations or new turf.
- No watering of fairways.
- Spot cleaning of pool concourses rather than hosing.
- Backwashing of pool filters will still take place as required by NSW Health protocols.
- Beaton Park filtration has been upgraded to an ultra-fine filter which reduces the volume of water used when completing a backflush from 15-20,000l to 1,000l. This technology will be rolled out to some of the larger outdoor pools over the next few years.
- No wash down of building structures (unless there is a public health / safety risk) to be undertaken.
- Parks buildings / shelters will only be washed down to address immediate public safety concerns.
- Our six-star administration building has 70,000l of water tanks installed in the plant room that are connected to the amenities. We designed a water capture system so when we test the fire pumps we don't lose the water. This saves around 30,000l on its own. Comparative analysis when we completed the Green Star certification shows and efficiency gain in the order of 78% against the established benchmark.
Shellharbour and Kiama work to curb water use as restrictions begin
Public spaces across the Illawarra are set to change dramatically over the coming months, as the region's three councils feel the effects of the toughest water restrictions in years.
Gardens, sportsfields, parks and public amenities, which all require the use of water for maintenance, will be affected.
In Shellharbour, like in Wollongong, the council is still operating under the more lenient level one restrictions while it seeks exemptions to allow it to continue watering some sportsfields.
However, general manager Carey McIntyre said the city had "responded swiftly to the water restrictions and introduced a range of water-saving measures" since the tighter rules kicked in on Tuesday.
For instance the council will turn off any water features that use town water, and drinking water use has been cut back in outdoor uses.
These measures will affect residents, visitors and organisations such as sporting groups who enjoy our parks, gardens and public amenities.Kiama Council
The Links golf course is using stormwater storage to irrigate the course, gardens and landscape areas, and mower heights are being raised to reduce plant stress.
"Watering of gardens and street trees is primarily through trailer-mounted tanks filled from a stormwater storage previously filled from residential water runoff near Flinders," Mr McIntyre said.
As for sportsfields, which are already yellowed and dry, the council has reduced the water pumped through irrigation systems, and the focus has also been on the best time to water, either early in the morning or at night.
The council is also looking at whether it can rotate fields to avoid overuse.
In Kiama, level two restrictions mean the council will only water Hindmarsh and Coronation Park, Kiama Showgrounds and Chittick Oval.
All other parks and gardens, including the flower-filled street gardens along the main roads, will have reduced watering, and staff are checking public taps and showers to ensure they are spring-loaded.
The council is also considering closing off some public taps and showers.
"These measures will affect residents, visitors and organisations such as sporting groups who enjoy our parks, gardens and public amenities," the council said in a statement.
"However, the measures are a response to the severe threat to water supplies in our region."
UOW works towards 'self-sufficient' water use
UOW works towards 'self-sufficient' water use
Like the Illawarra's councils, the University of Wollongong has custody of many lawns, gardens and sportsfields, all of which require water to survive.
With Level 2 water restrictions starting this week, the university has adjusted a number of its operations, with most lawns not being watered and gardens being allowed to remain under stress.
Water features across the campus have also been switched off and landscaped water features that normally rely on top-ups from drinking water are not being topped up.
"For some time, the University of Wollongong has been pursuing a range of water consumption reduction and reuse initiatives as it works towards being self-sufficient in water usage," a UOW spokesman said.
"As the Wollongong Campus is located over a natural riparian corridor, some of its water features are filled by natural water courses. These are unaffected by water restrictions.
"Lawns identified as priority lawns, such as those used as outdoor event venues, are fitted with smart watering systems that have been configured to comply with level two water restrictions."
The university's sporting fields are also equipped with smart watering systems, the spokesman said, and are connected to a 600kL rainwater storage and drainage recovery system.
"Exemptions are being sought for the plant nursery and for sporting field maintenance, particularly for the cricket oval to enable proper preparation and maintenance of the wicket during the cricket season," he said.
"Consideration is also being given to applying for an exemption to enable continued operation of the water feature that forms part of the early childhood development experiences in the Early Start Discovery Space."