Efficient irrigation guidelines

Ground irrigation device

The Water Efficiency Guideline provides a framework for water-wise gardening and lawn maintenance to allow residents to enjoy their gardens, lawns and outdoor lifestyle while ensuring water is used efficiently, wisely and responsibly. If planning to use town water in an efficient irrigation system, you must ensure that your system and/or sprinklers comply with the guideline. Alternate sources such as rainwater, bores and greywater are not restricted.

There are additional requirements for non-residential premises where the area to be irrigated exceeds 500 square metres. Contact us for more information.


1. Important regulatory information

This document is a summary of the main provisions of Efficient Irrigation for Water Conservation Guideline as referred to in Part 8 of the Queensland Plumbing and Wastewater Code (The Guideline).

Definitions are used throughout the Guideline and defined terms are listed in Schedule 1. Please ensure you read Schedule 1 (at the bottom of the Guideline) as the definitions contain important information.

1.1 Queensland Plumbing and Wastewater Code

The Queensland Plumbing and Wastewater Code requires all outdoor irrigation systems, installed or replaced in homes and one-storey units (Class 1 and Class 2 buildings) in Queensland areas serviced by a Water Service Provider, to comply with the Guideline when:

  1. connected to a water service; or
  2. connected to a rainwater tank where the rainwater tank has a continuity of supply from a water service through either:
    1. a trickle top-up system; or
    2. an automatic switching device where the off take is located downstream of the automatic switching device.

1.2 Water Restrictions

Permanent Conservation Measures apply to all business and residential properties connected to town water supplies in Toowoomba, Highfields, Crows Nest, Oakey, Westbrook, Gowrie Junction, Kingsthorpe, Jondaryan, Meringandan, Goombungee and Wyreema areas.

Water restrictions apply to other regional areas within the Toowoomba Regional Council boundaries. Check council’s website for water restriction conditions in these water supply areas:

  • Clifton
  • Pittsworth and Cecil Plains
  • Millmerran and Brookstead
  • Yarraman


2. Application of the guideline

Efficiency levels for urban outdoor irrigation systems and sprinklers apply to:

  • the use of water from a reticulated (town) supply system for watering gardens and lawns in residential and non-residential premises
  • watering devices – what you can use to water (section 3)
  • operating requirements – how you can water (section 3)
  • watering periods – how long you can water (section 1.2)

The guideline also contains information to help you:

  • how much water your garden actually requires (refer to web article - Efficient watering practices)
  • plan your garden and irrigation system (refer to web article - Efficient watering practices)
  • understand how much water emitters and sprinklers use (Appendix A)
  • meet water consumption targets under restrictions (section 1.2)

There are additional requirements for non-residential premises where the area to be irrigated exceeds 500 square metres. Check council’s Service Provider Water Restrictions schedule for more information.

2.1 How compliance can be demonstrated

Compliance with the Guideline and water restriction requirements can be demonstrated by:

  • using an efficient irrigation system and/or efficient sprinkler (section 3)
  • watering you garden or lawn in accordance with the permitted hours set out in the water restrictions for your local area (section 1.2)
  • adopting water efficient gardening and lawn management practices (refer to web article - Efficient gardening practices)
  • using water in accordance with the Guideline


3. Efficient irrigation requirements

The following information outlines the requirements for various irrigation devices and their operating requirements.

3.1 Efficient irrigation system

An efficient irrigation system must have the following features:

  1. a network of permanent piping connected to emitters which has been designed and installed to water a specific landscape area
  2. the maximum output capacity of each emitter within the irrigation system must not exceed 9 litres/min*; and
  3. the irrigation system must be fitted with either:
    1. a manual timer with a maximum range of two hours; or
    2. an automated timer, used with a soil moisture sensor or rain sensor to prevent the system operating during rain or where the soil already holds adequate moisture to sustain plant growth.
  4. where drip-line is used it must be pressure-compensated and consist of permanent plastic tubing which has inline or internal emitters (inside the hose) spaced at regular intervals of at least 30 cm
  5. drippers may only be used for lawn irrigation where certified by a Certified Irrigation Professional
  6. the use of an efficient irrigation system must be in accordance with the operating requirements and watering times determined by Council.

*A Certified Irrigation Professional is permitted to certify an irrigation system as an efficient irrigation system using emitters with a different flow rate, provided the system is fit for purpose and delivers the same or better water efficiency outcomes when used in accordance with this Irrigation Guideline.

Refer to APPENDIX A for more information on different emitter outputs.

3.2 An efficient sprinkler

Sprinklers are attached to the end of a garden hose and are generally moved around the garden or lawn from time to time to cover the area to be watered. To be an efficient sprinkler, the device must:

  1. be non-fixed
  2. have a maximum output capacity which does not exceed more than 9 litres of water per minute
  3. be capable of connection to a standard garden hose or permanent piping of 15 mm diameter or less
  4. be connected to and used in conjunction with a timer
  5. have an adjustable distribution pattern so that hard surfaces are not watered
  6. be used in accordance with the operating requirements and watering times determined by Council.

3.3 Operating requirements

An efficient irrigation system or efficient sprinkler must be operated efficiently to conserve water. When watering gardens and lawns by any means, you should:

  • apply water at a rate so that it does not ponds, pools or runs off
  • not apply water when the soil is already adequately moist to sustain plant growth, whether as a result of rain or other watering
  • apply water in such a manner so that it does not fall on buildings or hard surfaces and run to waste
  • use a manual timer with a maximum timing capability of 30 minute with an efficient sprinkler
  • not apply water in windy conditions where the distribution pattern of the irrigation or sprinkling systems will be affected
  • apply water only to gardens that are sufficiently mulched to reduce evaporation
  • apply water to only lawns that have been laid on a soil underlay with a minimum depth of at least 100mm.


4. Helping you make efficient choices – Smart Approved WaterMark

The QWC worked with Smart Approved WaterMark and the irrigation, nursery and garden industries to provide assistance in identifying water efficient devices and water wise gardening practices required by the Guideline.

Smart Approved WaterMark is Australia’s national, not-for-profit labelling scheme for products and services that help to reduce water use outdoors and around our homes. It is the sister scheme to the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme which allows consumers to compare the water efficiency of different indoor products and appliances.

The Guideline identifies irrigation products that display the Smart Approved WaterMark, so look for this sign when selecting irrigation products. For more information on Smart Approved WaterMark products visit www.smartwatermark.org/products


Schedule 1 - Definitions

Schedule 1 defines particular words that are used in the Guideline. Unless a contrary intention appears, definitions used in the Water Act 2000 and in council's Service Provider Water Restrictions schedule apply to the interpretation of this Efficient Irrigation for Water Conservation Guideline:

“Certified Irrigation Professional "means a person who has attained nationally recognised qualifications in irrigation and achieved certification through Irrigation Australia Limited (IAL).

“drip-line" means a piping system which has in-line or internal dripper inserted manually or during manufacturing

“efficient irrigation system” means a system designed to:

  1. use water efficiently within the volume and time limits set by the Service Provider Water Restrictions schedule to maintain a healthy, functional garden or lawn without exceeding the water requirements of the garden or lawn; and
  2. operate in accordance with the Efficient Irrigation for Water Conservation Guideline.

“efficient sprinkler” means a non-fixed watering device that is designed to:

  1. attach to a hose;
  2. be moved around in order to irrigate a garden or lawn;
  3. use water efficiently within the volume and time limits set by Restrictions to maintain a healthy, functional garden or lawn without exceeding the water requirements of the garden or lawn; and
  4. must operate in accordance with the Commission Efficient Irrigation for Water Conservation Guideline.

“emitter” means a device of any kind fitted on a network of permanent piping which is operated under pressure to discharge water in a spray, mist or drip form. Common types of emitters include drippers, micro-sprayers, pop-up and gear-drive sprays and fixed sprinkler heads.

“Garden” is defined as any outdoor ground used for the cultivation of, or in which there are situated trees, shrubs, flowers, plants, vegetables, or vegetation of any kind including plants in pots or tubs and excluding lawn.

“hand held hose” means a hose fitted with a trigger nozzle or twist action nozzle that is held by hand when it is used.

“lawn” means an outdoor expanse of grass-covered land that is usually associated with a garden, but does not include active playing surfaces (such as sports grounds).

“mulch” means any material used to cover the surface in and around plants designed to retain moisture and reduce evaporation.

“precipitation rate” means the volume of water (in litres) applied by the efficient irrigation system to a defined area (square metres) over a specified period of time (minutes).

“pressure–compensated” means the ability of the drip-line to maintain the same emission rate over a range of pressures.

“rain sensor” means a device that prevents an irrigation system from being operated during, or soon after rainfall.

“reticulated (town) supply system” means a system of water distribution infrastructure operated by a service provider delivering potable (drinking quality) water to premises in the local government area of the service provider, directly to the premises through the distribution system or indirectly to the premises in a water tanker or other container containing water that has been sourced from the reticulated supply system; the system also includes a rainwater tank which contains any water sourced from the reticulated water supply system including rainwater tanks employing a trickle top-up system. However, the system does not include a rainwater tank that is connected to a house via an automatic switching valve for the purpose of maintaining supply to internal toilet cisterns, washing machine cold water taps or other fixtures specified in a local planning instrument where stored rainwater is sourced directly from an outlet from a tank or upstream from the automatic switching valve.

“soil moisture sensor" means a device that measures the amount of residual moisture or water in the soil. It prevents irrigation systems from being used when the soil is already wet.


Appendix A

There is a wide range of emitters (including drippers, micro-sprayers, pop-up and gear-drive sprays and fixed sprinkler heads) which will achieve 9 litres or less per minute. For example:

  1. Most drippers use between 2 and 8 litres per hour. This means they only use 0.13 litres each per minute.
  2. Micro-sprayers generally use between 0.4 – 2.5 litres per minute.
  3. Medium to low sized gear drive or pop-up fixed sprinklers/ sprayers generally use around 7 or 8 litres per minute.

If you have an existing irrigation system where the emitters exceed the output capacity permitted under this Irrigation Guideline, you will need to replace the emitters so that they discharge less than the required 9 litres/ minute. Changing emitters can usually be undertaken easily and cost effectively. For additional guidance and advice, please contact your irrigation professional or hardware specialist on the appropriate irrigation solution for your system.

Most good quality irrigation products and emitters will have their output capacity in either litres/min or litres/hour clearly shown on their packaging or at point of sale. If you already have an existing irrigation system and are unable to find out the output rate of your emitters, you should run The Water Meter Test.

When shopping, look for water efficient irrigation products that carry the Smart Approved WaterMark and beware of products where the output capacity or the Smart Approved WaterMark is not clearly shown. You can also look for information such as shelf labels or brochures displayed near irrigation products and emitters. You may be able to find information on emmitter flow rates from the manufacturer's website or by asking your irrigation professional or hardware retailer.

Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 November 2018 09:04
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