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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May, 2005, 08:24 GMT 09:24 UK
Dry Sydney tightens water curbs
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

 A warning sign is displayed at Pejar Dam, one of the main water supply reservoirs for Goulburn May 11, 2005 in Goulburn, Australia.
Australia's dams and reservoirs are drying up
Australia's biggest city, Sydney, is introducing its toughest ever water restrictions as a long-standing drought continues to tighten its grip.

Dam levels are at record lows, and households and businesses are being urged to do all they can to conserve water.

Anyone caught breaching the new restrictions will face hefty fines.

Weather forecasters have warned that Australia's drought is likely to get worse.

Water restrictions have become a way of life for Sydney's four million residents. They were first introduced a year-and-a-half ago.

Those who thought they were temporary measures have been in for a rude surprise. The restrictions have gradually been tightened as the drought continues.

Fines

Under the new rules, homeowners will be allowed to water their gardens just twice a week, and the use of sprinkler systems has been outlawed. Anyone caught flouting the regulations will face heavy fines.

Stealing water from fire hydrants, rivers or through illegal plumbing will also attract harsher penalties.

The authorities in Sydney have a fleet of 50 designated patrol cars to make sure the community is compliant. Residents are being encouraged to inform on their errant neighbours.

Levels in the main dam that supplies Australia's most heavily populated city have dipped below 40%. Further falls will trigger even more restrictions on water use.

The situation beyond the urban area is equally desperate. Almost half of Australia's farmland is officially in drought.

This week the government in Canberra increased the amount of emergency assistance to farmers to just under A$1bn (US$750m).

True relief, however, in the shape of significant rainfall, seems a long way off. Weather forecasters have predicted that much of Australia is in for a warmer and drier-than-average winter.




SEE ALSO:
Australia wilts in its Big Dry
09 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia in grip of water crisis
08 Nov 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia warned of water crisis
05 Jul 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Australia
04 Feb 04 |  Country profiles


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