Drought Response

While the safety of Hunter Water’s drinking quality is our priority, ongoing supply of water is critical to the wellbeing of our region.  

Within NSW Government's Lower Hunter Water Plan, measures are in place to reduce the amount of water required to serve the lower Hunter’s needs, make better use of existing storages, and provide extra supply as a contingency in extreme droughts. Some measures will apply all the time, to reduce demand or substitute supply, while others, including restrictions are activated as storage levels fall during droughts.

Water Restrictions

We recognise that within our community water is an enabler of economic activity and growth as well as liveability. Many of the measures we use to ensure water supply are outlined below, but water restrictions will be top of mind for you as we move into Level 1 water restrictions.

Restrictions are introduced in response to overall water storage levels. Our staff monitor storage levels and use other information, including complex computer models of the performance of our water supply system based on historical climatic patterns, to help make decisions on when restrictions are introduced. Restrictions are introduced at the following triggers based on percentage of overall water storage:

  • Level 1 – 60%
  • Level 2 – 50%
  • Level 3 – 40%

For information on what each level means and the water saving actions you should take visit our water restrictions page.

Water restrictions are removed when overall storage levels recover more than 70%.

Operational Activities

Minimising water loss:

A critical investment made over the last three years has been to focus our operational activities on reducing leakage and water loss from our own water network. With more leaks detected through increased survey activity and implementing smart technology systems, in those three years, we have reduced leakage by 20% across our water network.        

Regional Water Transfers:

Hunter Water and Central Coast Council have an agreement in place that facilitates the flow of water between the two regions based on relative storage levels.  The agreement has been designed to ensure both Hunter Water’s and Central Coast systems are optimised, increasing overall system resilience and benefiting both communities over the longer term.

Operating Tomago Sandbeds:

A safe and reliable back up water supply during times of drought is the Tomago Sandbeds.  Over the long term, the sandbeds provide around 20% of the region’s drinking water. One of the reasons we don’t operate the Sandbeds continuously is due to the higher cost of treating the water. Customers may notice some changes in the appearance of their water when the Sandbeds are operational due to naturally occurring Iron and Manganese present in the water. This is not a health concern, but it can discolour the water. Learn more about operation of Tomago Sanbeds        

Community Education and Partnerships

Encouraging households to ‘love water’:

Our ‘Love Water’ campaign is an educational campaign encouraging household water users to conserve water through simple every day changes they can make to their water use.  Hunter Water provides water saving tips, including limiting showers to no more than 4 minutes, filling dishwashers and washing machines before each load and using trigger nozzles in the garden. Through a comprehensive media campaign, engaging with customers through newsletters, community events and in schools, we are aiming for the ‘Love Water’ messages to reduce water consumption across our region. Preliminary estimates indicate water savings across our customers could be as high as 3%. 

Encouraging businesses to ‘love water’:

We are engaging with our non-residential customers across a range of industries and organisations to prepare and implement Water Efficiency Management Plans (WEMPS), which help them identify and realise water savings in their businesses.

Working in conjunction with other water utilities:

Across the State, our other water utilities face similar conditions across their water supply networks, and our continuing professional relationships have enabled us to share resources and learnings to assist in drought response.

Rainwater tank education:

Rainwater tanks are becoming a more common feature in the lower Hunter, with around 40,000 tanks installed on households across our region. Hunter Water provides ongoing education to customers around ensuring their tanks are operating properly, maintenance and making the most of their harnessed rainwater.

Planning for Drought Response Desalination:

A key outcome of the 2014 LHWP is to plan for a desalination plant, to be built and operated only if storage levels reach critically low levels. Hunter Water has been progressing with the Concept Design and environmental approvals for a desalination plant at Belmont, capable of producing up to 15 million litres of drinking water per day in the event of a severe drought. The plant would be operational no later than overall storage levels reaching 15%. Continuing to plan, and implement, drought response desalination if required, is an important measure in Hunter Water’s response to drought.

Learn more about the drought response desalination


Learn more about the Lower Hunter Water Plan

We are undertaking a major review of the long term water plan for our region. Learn more