Sydney, Australia

Australia's most populous state of New South Wales on Tuesday imposed water restrictions for the first time in a decade with dam levels at just over 50 per cent due to a prolonged drought.

The country's east coast has suffered through two years of below average rainfall, devastating agricultural production and stoking a political debate over the impact of climate change.

Australia drought

A lone tree stands near a water trough in a drought-affected paddock on Jimmie and May McKeown's property located on the outskirts of town of Walgett, in New South Wales, Australia, on 20th July, 2018. PICTURE: Reuters/David Gray/File Photo

With the drought showing no sign of abating, state authorities said residents can only water their lawns and gardens between 10am and 4pm. Washing of hard surfaces such as driveways will be prohibited from 1st June.

New South Wales, home to about a third of Australia's 25 million people and its biggest city Sydney, last imposed water restrictions in 2009.

New South Wales Water Minister Melinda Pavey said the latest outlook for dry, hot conditions had forced the government's hand.

"The Bureau of Meteorology's latest forecast is predicting below-average rainfall and higher temperatures for June to August, which are key drivers of stronger water demand," Pavey said in a statement.


Dam levels in the state are now just over 50 per cent, down sharply from 96 per cent in April, 2017, she said.

The state has received less than 70 per cent of its typical average rainfall since May, 2017, according to meteorology bureau data.

While the threat of El Nino - which is associated with dry weather across Australia's east coast - has eased in recent weeks, the dry weather persists.

With less than 50mm of rain in May, wheat farmers in the state face a third straight year of below average production, a drain on the state's economy.