Goulburn is on the verge of water restrictions, limiting each person to using 230 litres per day, if no substantial rain falls by December.
The mooted move to 'amber level' restrictions comes as the council combats what it says is water theft from fire hydrants and mains.
General manager Warwick Bennett told Tuesday night's meeting that tankers were pulling up "in the dark of night," connecting into hydrants and stealing potable water, which they were then selling at cost.
"It's very hard for us to detect and we very much rely on the community for feedback...We need to stop this," he said.
Mr Bennett appealed to the community to report such theft to the council if they saw it happening. Some incidents have already been reported. However the council admits it doesn't know their true extent.
Utilities director Marina Hollands told The Post that the council had to see it happening in order to issue fines.
"Connecting to any part of our main is a risk to our water quality. If there's something in the tank and it gets back into our main it can cause all sorts of problems. There can be mains breaks," she said.
"People are getting desperate but we can't have them taking water (like this). We have licensed carters who can buy water from us and transport it but there is a process."
Special connections were needed to tap into the hydrants, which are visible from above ground.
Meantime, the city's overall water storage has dropped to 67.9 per cent and 64.7pc usable.
Mrs Hollands said if there was no significant rain in the next week, 'amber level' water restrictions, which are triggered at 65pc overall storage, would be enforced in early December.
The council shifted from a numerical water restriction regime to a green, amber and red system in 2011.
Amber restricts each person to 230 litres daily and is triggered at the start of bulk transfers from the Highland Source Pipeline (HSP), running to Goulburn from the Wingecarribee Reservoir at Bowral.
Hand held hoses with a control nozzle or bucket can only be used between 5pm and 10am to water plants and lawns; watering systems and hose sprinklers are limited to use between 5pm and 10am weekends; and private pools can only be filled when a water offset plan for that home has been met.
People are getting desperate but we can't have them taking water (like this).Marina Hollands, council utilities director
Paths, driveways and hard surfaces cannot be cleaned, except in extreme circumstances such as a health threatening incident, but vehicles can be washed at any time on a porous surface with a a controlled nozzle.
In October, Goulburn's average daily consumption was 9.23 Megalitres, compared to 7.78ML in September.
Also in September and October, 31ML and almost 68ML respectively were transferred into Goulburn's supply from the HSP. It is supplying an average 4ML/day, or one-third of Goulburn's daily use.
"We are maximising that at the moment, " Mrs Hollands said.
"...We are part of the overall Sydney supply network and Sydney water levels continue to drop. We don't know what this will mean for us in future. We could be affected (in terms of HSP volumes) but at this stage that has not been discussed."
Nevertheless, Goulburn's HSP agreement allowed it to take enough for its needs.
Mrs Hollands told The Post earlier this month that if Goulburn also supplied the proposed poultry processing plant in the city's north, which estimated 18ML/week usage, it would require another HSP pump station.
It would also soak up all of the projected one per cent annual growth factored into a 2009 yield analysis completed for the pipeline.
"We can supply them (the poultry plant) but then we don't have that opportunity for growth. We would have to look for another source," she said.
Mr Bennett previously said the council was reviewing infrastructure around Common Street, where the plant wanted to locate, to ensure it could supply that amount of water.
"The issue is not so much the ability to supply it but the capacity of the wastewater and sewerage treatment plant to cope with that and an extra 3000 households (predicted) over the next 20 years. It's a matter of balancing those two things," he said in October.
The council will also supply the Tribe Brewery at South Goulburn with water under a special industrial price. This rate represents a 42 per cent discount on the current residential usage charge. The brewery is only in commissioning phase but water use will ramp up when operations begin next year. It expects to use about 27.3ML in its first year, according to 2018 estimates.
Currently, Goulburn is releasing about 11ML/day from Sooley Dam for the city's use. The storage sits at 45pc capacity.
The council's water operations business manager, Luke Moloney, said the Wollondilly River stopped running into the 3000ML storage, Rossi Weir, about three weeks ago.
Sooley's water is 'shandied' with that from the Highland Source.
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