Garden bores - Frequently asked questions

Answers to frequently asked questions on garden bores

What is a garden bore?

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Garden bores are small bores that abstract groundwater from the shallow watertable aquifer to irrigate small areas of home gardens and lawns. Garden bores access a shared groundwater resource. If you use a garden bore, then you are sharing our precious groundwater with nature and other groundwater users nearby, such as your local council and schools.

A basic garden bore structure includes a bore hole or well, pipe and a pump. The pipe provides access to water stored underground in the aquifer and the pump draws this water to the surface. Garden bores are usually connected to irrigation systems and an irrigation controller.

Responsible garden bore use involves staying within sprinkler rosters, avoiding overuse and installing bores only in suitable locations. Using bores to irrigate areas larger than 2,000 square meters, or for commercial purposes, requires assessment and the granting of a licence to take water by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation.

How are garden bores drilled and constructed?

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We recommend that garden bores are constructed by an experienced and accredited driller who is licensed by the Australian Drilling Industry Association.

An accredited driller will ensure construction meets industry standards and is suitable for your needs. They will also provide you with a ‘bore log’ indicating bore depth, soil composition, yield and pump make and model, which can be invaluable records for you and any subsequent owner.

Garden bore construction should meet the Minimum construction requirements for water bores in Australia to ensure they are safe and effective.

Ensure your driller complies with the standard shown below. The diagram shows the minimum construction requirements specifically suited to garden bores accessing the watertable aquifer. The department prepared this diagram in conjunction with the Australian Drilling Industry Association.

The Australian Drilling Industry Association provides an accredited members search function at www.adia.com.au.

You could also consider asking around. Your neighbour's may have used a local driller and have valuable feedback on their experience.

Do I need a licence to construct or use a garden bore?

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In Western Australia, garden bores do not need to be licensed if they are used for irrigating small areas of domestic garden and lawn (fewer than 2,000 m2) and the water is taken from the shallow, watertable aquifer (such as Perth’s Superficial aquifer).

Garden bores generally do not require licensing because they are small bores, using a small amount of water compared with other licensed groundwater users, and they spread the take of groundwater if they are used wisely. Garden bore water doesn’t usually require treatment because the water quality is fit for use on gardens and lawn, so they also save treated scheme water for drinking and other human purposes.

You do need a water licence from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation if you are in a proclaimed groundwater area and you:

  • use a bore to irrigate areas of garden and lawn of 0.2 hectares or more (2,000 square meters or more)
  • use a bore for commercial purposes, such as to grow produce or for industrial and mining purposes
  • take water from an artesian aquifer (such as Perth’s Leederville and Yarragadee aquifers).

For more information see applying for a water licence and garden bore licensing exemptions.

When can garden bores be used?

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In Western Australia, garden bores generally don’t need to be assessed or licensed under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 and instead are regulated under the Water Agencies (Water Use) By-laws 2010. The by-laws specify permanent water efficiency measures, temporary water restrictions and exemption provisions.

To help save our precious groundwater and only give gardens the water they need, the following permanent water efficiency measures and exemptions apply to garden bores in WA.

Daytime sprinkler use is restricted

You can use your garden bore once on a rostered day, either before 9am or after 6pm.

Three rostered watering days a week in Perth

You can use a garden bore on three rostered days a week in the Perth–Peel area and on any day for other parts of WA. Find your rostered watering days through Water Corporation.

Switch off sprinklers for winter

You must not use sprinklers from 1 June to 31 August each year in Perth and the South West.

Automatic exemption for maintenance

You may use your garden bore and sprinklers while the system is being installed, maintained, tested or repaired, to the minimum extent necessary.

We recommended a maximum of two minutes per station and to carry out work on your sprinkler roster days, before 9am or after 6pm.

New lawn and garden establishment

You must apply for a temporary exclusion from sprinkler restrictions if you need to water new lawns and gardens while they’re being established. Apply online for a new lawn or garden exemption if you have a Water Corporation account.

If not, contact us on 1800 508 885 (the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation).

How do I report a breach in garden bore sprinkler use?

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Anyone found using a garden bore in breach of sprinkler restrictions can be fined $100.

In Perth this includes the daytime, three-day-a-week roster and winter restrictions.

In the South West this includes the daytime and winter restrictions.

Report a sprinkler restriction breach by contacting your water service provider in the first instance (Aqwest in Bunbury, Busselton Water in Busselton or the Water Corporation elsewhere in the South West).

Can I share my garden bore with another property?

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Some garden bores are shared across residential premises, with the bore located on another property. If in doubt, ask your neighbours or strata manager.

Be aware that there are some shared garden bores that have legal arrangements between the parties who share the bore. Any dispute about the legal obligations is a civil matter and is not the responsibility of the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation to manage.

We recommend that all details about shared bores are provided to property owners as part of the transfer of property ownership.

If you share a bore and the irrigation system will not allow you to water only on your rostered days, you can register the bore to avoid an infringement. Contact us on 1800 508 885 or email wem@water.wa.gov.au.

How do I find out about my local groundwater conditions and if garden bores are suitable?

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The Perth groundwater map is a simple tool to help you understand groundwater in your area and where garden bores are suitable.

To use the map, enter your property address into the map search function and then view the tabs for information such as:

  • estimated depth to the watertable and depth of the Superficial aquifer beneath your property
  • an indication of groundwater quality (salinity)
  • iron staining risk • acid sulphate soil risk
  • whether the area is suitable for garden bores.

Not all areas are suitable for garden bores as this will depend on the local hydrogeology such as the soil’s ability to store groundwater, risks to groundwater users such as poor or contaminated water quality and risks to the environment such as being near high-valued environmental features including wetlands. Areas across Perth that are generally unsuitable for garden bores include:

  • the Cottesloe Peninsula because of high saltwater intrusion risks from the ocean and the river
  • suburbs around Secret Harbour and Port Kennedy because fresh groundwater is very limited
  • within 200 m of the ocean or the Swan River Estuary because of saltwater intrusion risks
  • areas in and around the Perth foothills as groundwater is patchy and bore yields are likely to be unproductive
  • near wetlands to minimise drawdown risks and environmental sensitivity
  • near contaminated sites where groundwater may be polluted
  • in areas where groundwater is over-allocated or stressed because it is collectively abstracted more than it is replenished by rainfall recharge.

For more information on groundwater in your area view our Water Information Reporting Tool.

Is it safe to drink water from my garden bore?

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The use of garden bores for drinking water is not recommended where scheme water is available. For areas where scheme water is not available, the department’s advice is that it is not safe to consume water from garden bores without proper testing, treatment, and ongoing monitoring by an accredited and approved laboratory.

Although groundwater quality in the shallow aquifers across the Perth and Peel regions is generally good for irrigation-type purposes, groundwater from your bore may contain contaminants, including heavy metals and bacteria that could make you very ill.

It is not safe to consume water from your garden bore without appropriate testing, treatment (as required) and ongoing monitoring. If you need to use groundwater for drinking, get advice from the Department of Health and check our advice note on private drinking water safety and advice note on safe use of bore water in rural areas.

Where do I get my garden bore water tested?

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You should regularly have your garden bore water tested in a NATA-accredited laboratory to ensure it meets water quality standards for drinking and or for irrigation.

If you are in an area with no scheme water connection and you need to use groundwater from your garden bore for drinking, showering or food preparation contact a NATA-accredited laboratory and ask for a standard drinking water test.

If you use your garden bore for irrigation refer to the water quality indicators in our brochure Contaminated groundwater – could my garden bore be affected?

Read more about safe bore water use, water quality, contamination and where to get your garden bore water professionally tested on the Department of Health’s Healthy WA website.

How do I maintain my garden bore?

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Garden bores and their irrigation systems need to be maintained to work efficiently and effectively in the long term.

Whether your bore is old or new, regular maintenance will help you spot signs of scaling, corrosion, damage and leaks which can reduce your system’s performance and increase your pump running costs.

Follow these tips to get the most out of your garden bore:

  1. Use an accredited driller who is experienced with the soil and groundwater conditions in your area.
  2. Keep your garden bore records. An accredited driller will provide you with a ‘bore log’ indicating bore depth, soil composition, yield and pump make and model. Keep these records with your house plans. These records can be invaluable, either for you or a subsequent owner.
  3. Install a protective cover and ensure it remains intact so the garden bore headworks can be easily found and accessed.
  4. Regularly inspect your bore headworks, casing and pump for signs of scaling, corrosion or damage.
  5. Connect your garden bore to an irrigation system, and preferably to a smart irrigation controller, to help ensure efficient watering.
  6. During the winter sprinkler switch off, run your system to the minimum extent necessary to keep your pump in good working order. Check if you are included in the switch off here.
  7. Before spring when irrigation starts again, check your irrigation system is not leaking and replace any broken or clogged sprinkler nozzles. Remember to run your garden bore for the minimum extent necessary.
  8. Seek guidance from an endorsed Waterwise Garden Irrigator or Waterwise Irrigation Design Shop (retail outlet) to help you with all irrigation and bore maintenance, troubleshooting and repairs. To find a waterwise specialist in your area visit Irrigation Australia at www.waterwiseprograms.com.au or use Water Corporation’s search tool to find all types of waterwise specialists.
  9. Keep the bore clean and in good working order. Never flush waste down a borehole.
  10. Take regular water samples to check your water quality, in particular salinity and pH, which can indicate groundwater contamination, damaged bore casing and/or overpumping (in excess of the site’s recharge).
  11. Check if your garden bore water has changed colour or has any odours which can indicate contamination or the presence and build-up of iron bacteria that may impact your pump’s efficiency.
  12. If you decommission your bore, make sure you have it professionally capped to make it safe and prevent groundwater contamination.

How can I be more waterwise with my garden bore?

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Garden bore use can be good because it spreads the impact of groundwater take and is fit for purpose rather than using treated scheme water. What we must be careful of is that collectively garden bores take a lot of water from groundwater systems shared by many other users and this is a problem, especially with a drying climate in the South West region.

Creating a waterwise garden is the most effective way to use less water and adapt to the impacts of climate change. This and using the right pump and water-efficient sprinklers are where the bulk of groundwater savings can be made.

See our waterwise gardening tips below, and to find out more see our Be Groundwater Wise website and the Water Corporation’s waterwise website.

Choose waterwise plants and create hydrozones

Choose waterwise Western Australian native and drought-tolerant plants. These will need less water and are low maintenance. Use the Water Corporation’s waterwise plants directory to find plants that will grow the best where you live.

Create hydrozones, where plants with similar water needs are grouped together in the garden. This will make it easier to set up irrigation systems to deliver the right amount of water for your plants’ needs – saving water.

Find out more about waterwise plants and garden design through Water Corporation.

Improve your soil and use mulch

Improve your soil by adding organic compost, a soil wetting agent and soil amendments, such as clay. This will improve the water and nutrient-holding capacity of your soil.

Apply a 5–10 cm layer of coarse mulch to help keep the water in and reduce evaporation.

Choose soil conditioners and mulches with the waterwise and Smart Approved WaterMark symbols.

Find out more about how to improve your soil and use waterwise products through Water Corporation’s website.

Install and build more climate-resilient lawns

If you are installing a new lawn, choose warm-season and drought-tolerant lawn species that are suitable for Perth’s warm conditions.

Increase and maintain your lawn’s health by following watering guidelines, applying a soil wetting agent at least three times a year, aerating your lawn annually during spring, and applying a slow- release fertiliser every two months during the warmer months and once during winter.

For more about how to install and build more climate-resilient lawns visit Water Corporation’s website.

Create a waterwise verge

Consider the benefits of creating a waterwise verge for you and your street to enjoy.

Waterwise verges use less water.

Find out more about how to transform your verge into a waterwise garden, including plant selection and incentives, through Water Corporation’s website.

Choose the right sprinklers for your garden and maintain them

The right sprinklers and irrigation systems can prevent over-watering and save a lot of water. For example, install drip-line sprinklers in your garden beds to avoid wasting water and rotary sprinklers on lawns for even water distribution.

Use catch cups to test your sprinkler application rates are achieving a 10 mm standard for Perth’s sandy soils in summer. Contact your local Waterwise Irrigation Design Shop (retail outlet) for a free set of catch cups.

Regularly check and maintain your sprinkler fittings to avoid leaks and water wastage.

Find out more about sprinkler types, recommended sprinkler run times and how to use catch cups through Water Corporation.

Choose the right irrigation controller and water right for the weather

Install an automatic irrigation controller to save you time and help prevent over- and underwatering.

Use the seasonal adjustment setting on your irrigation controller to give your lawn and garden what it needs and avoid overwatering.

Switch off your controller when it’s raining, no matter what then season, and during winter.

There are now many smart irrigation controllers available that will automatically adjust your sprinkler runtimes to local weather conditions and can be programmed through your smartphone.

Find out more about the types of irrigation controllers through Water Corporation.

Use an endorsed waterwise specialist

Using an endorsed waterwise professional will help you save water, time and money.

Whether you are starting from scratch or want to improve your existing irrigation system, find a Waterwise Garden Irrigator for professional irrigation design, installation and maintenance services.

Rather do it yourself? Then talk to an expert and get quality parts from your local Waterwise Irrigation Design Shop (retail outlet).

Find a Waterwise Garden Irrigator or your local Waterwise Irrigation Design Shop at www.waterwiseprograms.com.au

Use Water Corporation’s search tool to find all types of waterwise specialists.

Page reviewed 23 December 2020