Sydney enters the rainy season with water restrictions

Australian cities face the winter with low water storage levels and poor rain prospects.

    Australia recorded its warmest start to a year, while the national water reserve has fallen to its lowest level in five years, according to Weatherzone.com.au.

    Perth, the capital city of Western Australia, had its driest May in more than half a century this year. Melbourne, the capital of the southeastern state of Victoria, has been hovering around its driest start to a year on record - the city's water storage level is down nearly 10 percent from last year's figure.

    The Cataract Dam is the oldest dam in Sydney's water supply system and is currently sitting at just 29 percent of capacity. The New South Wales government has decided to enforce water restrictions from June 1 to help slow a rapid decline in Sydney's reservoirs and dams amid an ongoing drought.

    Storage levels in Sydney are currently at 53.6 percent, only slightly above the formal trigger for level-one water restrictions, which typically come into force at 50 percent. The city is experiencing some of the lowest inflows into its dams since the 1940s, prompting the state government to introduce the restrictions earlier than usual.

    Sydney residents will be banned from using sprinklers and hoses on their lawns and gardens between 10am and 4pm. Hoses must also be fitted with a trigger nozzle that has an instant off switch. Fines for breaches will be $220 for individuals and $550 for companies.

    The latest weather outlook from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) suggests that a drier-than-average winter is likely for much of eastern Australia and parts of the south. Andrew Watkins, head of long-range forecasts at the BOM, said: "It's winter, it's the southern wet season, it will rain, it's just likely to rain less than normal."

    He also said that May was the time when water storage in the south typically either stopped falling or began to rise.

    "But unfortunately, most of the water storages are still falling ... with the dry soils, low stream flows, we are still seeing a drop in the storages at the moment," Watkins added. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies