Staying above water in hot, dry spell

RESIDENTS could face tougher water restrictions by November this year if the dry spell and a recent jump in water consumption continues.

Storage levels are currently in “comparatively good shape” at 78.9 per cent, council spokesman Allan Reeder said, but the worst case scenario calculations of council staff project it could drop to 50 per cent by November if there is no rain and average residential water consumption stays at 318 litres per person per day.

When the city’s dams reach 50 per cent, level three water restrictions begin automatically, banning residents from using hand held hoses and sprinklers.

In the last two weeks consumption has jumped by almost 22 per cent, from an average of 261 litres per person to 318 per person per day. 

“The significant jump in water consumption in the last week in Orange is concerning for the city’s water storage levels,” Mr Reeder said.

“Council staff will be closely monitoring this week’s figures which are calculated on Friday each week to see if these trends continue.”

Mr Reeder said the lower consumption was probably linked to the last rain when about 19mm fell during the week.

“We’re currently on level two water restrictions which aren’t formally supposed to kick in until dam levels get to 60 per cent, but for some time now the community has shown it’s willing to work within the tighter restrictions so save as much water as we can,” he said.

Currently residents can water lawns, garden beds, trees and shrubs between 6am and 9am and between 6pm and 9pm every second day as per the odds and evens system.

Under level three restrictions, the system stays the same, but only microsprays, dripper systems and soaker hoses can be used.

Thomson’s Garden Centre horticulturalist Mary Ann Mein recommends gardeners use a wetting agent to improve soil absorbency making watering as effective as possible.

“When planting new plants put water crystals in and for existing plants that are struggling you can make holes around them and put the crystals in,” she said.

Ms Mein said products with seaweed tonic help stressed plants and fine mulch was the secret to holding moisture in the ground and cooling the roots.

If plants have already been singed on a hot day, Ms Mein said pruning should be avoided until the heat has passed, but said gardeners should seek advice from a horticulturalist for specific plant varieties and choose drought and frost hardy plants such as natives where possible.

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