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An exceptionally dry Winter at Booyong

Being a rural property that is dependent upon rain water, Booyong has certainly felt the impact of our dry winter. Whilst we haven’t had to purchase water like many of our neighbours we certainly came close. So grateful for the rain this past week!

The location of our Booyong was intentionally chosen due to the mild and generally warm and temperate climate. At an average temperature of 22.7 °C, January is the hottest month of the year and July is the coldest month. The average temperature is 18 degrees.

Rainfall is normally generous with high averages of 1392mm and July, August and September are generally the coldest months of the year with least rain fall (50-65 mm per month). In February, the precipitation reaches its peak, with an average of 186 mm. Whilst precipitation is generally the lowest in September, with an average of 49 mm, this year and the last two months have been exceptionally low. According to the Australia Bureau of Meteorology the July to September period is now the second driest on record, with rainfall over the past three months 65 per cent below the average.

We are very fortunate to have 8 dams on our property at Booyong. In addition we have several water tanks, one 22500 and 9000L off our large shed, 9000L off our shack and an additional 9000L tank off the house for gardening and washing cars etc (most shires require a minimum or 45,000L of water per household be held in water tanks). The majority of the water is collected from the main shed.

The general calculation is that for every 1 square metre of roof area and every 1mm of rain, you catch 1 litre of Rainwater. The problem though, as we have discovered this winter, is that you can go for months at a time with minimal or no rainfall. Whilst this occurs rarely in our region, we need to be prepared in the future!

We use our dams to water our gardens, wash our cars and feed our animals. Bob’s dam usually waters the orchard, however after our dry winter we are considering exploring other options. Bob’s dam came extremely close to empty and our small dam above the orchard is empty. Fortunately, we have two dams that were built to support the old kiwi fruit farm and we believe these could be irrigated and gravity fed to provide water for our intended food forest. Another large and costly project ahead, but well worth while considering we would like to become self-sufficient. Water is an essential element in achieving this goal.

The rural fire service requires an additional 10-20,000L to be kept in reserve depending upon fire risk. Our main dam is registered as a source of water for the local rural fire service and we have three fire hoses located on the property. These are used and serviced regularly.

Under section 52 of the Water Management Act 2000, landholders who own or occupy land on a riverbank, lakefront or overlie an aquifer can take water ( without a license) from the river, lake or aquifer for domestic purposes ( eg cooking, washing, watering house gardens) and to water stock on the property ( but not intensively housed animals) under a domestic right. I understand that some neighbours are drawing from the creek for domestic water usage; however the creek will not run when rainfall is low so it’s not really a reliable option. Animals and wildlife also rely on the creek for their natural habitat and we would rather not disturb this.

On average a family of four will use approximately 4,500 liters of water per week in the home and if we require water to be purchased locally it costs approximately $230.00 for 15000L of water.

Therefore during dry periods we ask that guests assist us by using water saving practices. You are staying on a rural property and that essentially means adopting the lifestyle and principles we live by:

Bathroom

  • When showering, first turn on the hot water and add cold as required. You can use the initial lukewarm water instead of just running it off while the shower heats up.
  • If you’re extra keen collect greywater in a bucket while you shower to use on the potted plants on the deck.
  • Don’t leave the tap running while cleaning your teeth, brushing your teeth with the tap running uses 5 litres of water,
  • To rinse your razor, run a little water into a plugged sink.
  • The toilet uses 21 per cent of the water used inside your home (12 litres per flush), boys please feel free to wee on the citrus trees in the orchard, and they love it.
  • A bath uses 100 litres and a shower 200 litres.

Laundry

  • Wash only with a full load, washing machines uses approximately 150 litres of water.

Kitchen

  • Wash your vegetables in a partially filled sink, rather than under running water.
  • In warmer weather, instead of running the tap until the water is cold, collect it in a jug to chill in the fridge.
  • Fit the size of the pot to the amount of food being cooked. Try not to use a large pan filled with water for a small amount of food.

We thank you for assisting us in preserving our water for your use and the use of future guests at Booyong. Another principle I live by: if it’s raining heavily enjoy a long hot shower, guilt free!

If you’re interested in your own water usage check out The Hunter Water website which can calculate your family’s estimated usage and offer some tips for saving water in your home.