Domestic garden bore FAQs
What is a garden bore?
Garden bores are small bores which abstract groundwater for:
- irrigating domestic lawn and gardens
- watering a small area of pasture (house paddocks in rural areas)
- water for firefighting.
The bore is usually connected to a garden irrigation controller.
Garden bores are currently exempt from licensing under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914, as long as:
- the area being irrigated is under 0.2 ha (2000 m2)
- the bore pumps from the shallow groundwater aquifer.
What should I know about my garden bore?
Most garden bores draw from our precious shallow groundwater resources. These are shared resources, providing water for our natural environment, public open space and other users.
To help share available groundwater it’s important to water your lawns and gardens efficiently. We need to be as water-wise with bore use as we are with tap water.
We recommend you use an accredited water-wise irrigation specialist for your garden bore and reticulation. It’s important to keep your bore’s installation and maintenance records for later trouble-shooting.
Information to keep
- Location of garden bore (a map is a good idea): some garden bores get built over with subdivisions/ renovations
- Make/Model of your pump and installation/maintenance dates/details
- Pump rate and water quality details on installation – these will be provided by an accredited driller
- Depth of bore, construction details and soil/water records – all provided by an accredited driller
- Decommissioning or replacement – detail date/ex-location/new location/ how the bore cavity has been sealed to prevent groundwater contamination.
What are the watering days for my garden bore?
Sprinkler restrictions are in place for some zones of WA to manage water use in gardens, and prevent wasting of precious water in our drying climate.
Garden bores restrictions
The following roster sprinkler restrictions apply to garden bores within Perth-Mandurah:
- Gardens may be watered once per day, three times a week, according to the house-number roster between the months of the 1 September and 31 May.
- Sprinklers may not be used between the hours of 9am and 6pm on any day.
Elsewhere in the state you can irrigate your garden from a bore once per day - except during winter if the winter sprinkler ban applies to your area.
Winter sprinkler ban
A total winter sprinkler ban applies to Perth, Mandurah and the South West (including Albany) between 1 June and 31 August each year.
How can I use my garden bore wisely?
Be water wise with your bore by:
- Only watering enough to meet your garden’s needs
- Selecting plants that use less water
- Irrigating in the early morning and evening to reduce evaporation loss
- Following the sprinkler restrictions
- Turning your sprinklers off if it’s going to rain
- Planning a water-wise garden
- Maintaining your bore and reticulation system
A responsible bore user:
- Seeks advice on a suitable pump size and pumping rate for your bore when installing – as over pumping can cause a multitude of problems.
- Keeps the bore clean and in good working order – never flushes waste down a borehole – and if you decide to decommission your bore ensure you have it professionally capped to make it safe and prevent contamination.
- Situates your bore carefully on your house block – it may be there a long time.
- Keeps bore locations more than 500m away from wetlands.
- Adjusts your watering time based on seasonal variation and rainfall.
- Keeps your records – ensure your driller provides you a ‘bore log’ indicating depth, soil composition, yield and pump make and model – and then keep these records with your house plans. These records can be invaluable, either for you or a subsequent owner.
Both the Water Corporation and the Irrigation Australia websites provide tips and information on managing your garden bore and irrigation system to improve irrigation efficiency, and on selecting water-wise garden plantings.
More information on water wise gardening and irrigation set up is provided on the Water Corporation website.
It is important we all use garden bores efficiently and responsibly to keep our groundwater healthy.
What can I use my garden bore for?
The Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 states garden bores taking from the shallow aquifer can be used for the following purposes:
- household domestic use
- domestic garden and lawn irrigation (irrigated area not exceeding 0.2 Ha)
- watering non-intensive stock
How long should I water from a garden bore?
Find tips on how long your irrigation system should run for optimal garden watering on the Water Corporation website.
Change irrigation rates to match the weather and turn irrigation off when it rains
By adjusting garden watering to the seasons you can reduce your sprinkler run-time in spring and autumn, compared to watering in summer, as evaporative water loss from the soil is less.
Lawns, gardens and trees are vital for health and well-being and play a crucial role in cooling our urban landscapes. However with a drying climate, the whole community needs to get better at using less water to achieve the same results by conserving water when possible.
By changing irrigation rates to match the weather and turning irrigation off when it rains, Perth will be better placed to meet the challenges of watering our gardens in the warmer months. Keeping water in the shallow superficial aquifers will maintain ecologically important wetlands and allow large canopy trees to survive through summer, providing beneficial shade.
Managing bores wisely
How does the department manage the use of garden bores across the metropolitan area?
The department estimates frequency, purpose, duration, and intensity of water abstraction by domestic garden bores using information from:
- household water use surveys
- metering a sample of domestic garden bores
- records from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Water Corporation
- bore logs.
We regularly update our estimates as new information becomes available.
In the future households may need to become less reliant on garden bores in some locations, and more water-wise to help share groundwater resources in our drying climate.
Current management continues through the sprinkler roster and winter sprinkler ban, along with periodic surveying of garden bore trends.
How many garden bores are there in the Perth-Peel region?
Garden bores are small groundwater bores for domestic and private garden irrigation purposes located in urban areas and the metropolitan fringe.
For the Perth-Peel metropolitan area it is estimated about 177 000 garden bores with a combined abstraction of up to 88 GL per year from shallow groundwater.
Installing a new garden bore
If you install a new garden bore, or have maintenance completed on one that you inherit, please keep all paperwork and details provided by the Accredited Driller or Irrigation Specialist who installs/services your bore.
These details are invaluable for future maintenance and repair. Keeping bore details with your house plans and title deeds is part of valuing our precious groundwater.
Where do I get information on an accredited driller?
We recommend an experienced or Class 1 accredited driller be used in every case. Irrigation Australia provides details of Waterwise irrigation specialists, and the Australian Drilling Industry Association provides an accredited members search function at www.adia.com.au. Ask around, neighbours may have used a local driller and have feedback.
Costs of garden bore installation
A garden bore needs to be a well-considered investment.
A good garden bore needs good quality water as well as a suitable yield of water – remember some areas may have problems with water quality such as staining from heavy iron content or poor plant growth arising from acidic conditions.
Installation costs for the bore may not be cost effective for the water quality you receive. Consider your individual situation and research local conditions. Also consider ongoing costs of pumping and maintenance.
How deep do I drill?
Groundwater is highly variable and quality depends on a number of factors such as precise local hydrogeology and depth of the bore.
The Perth groundwater map can be a useful place to find preliminary information about groundwater in your local area. Use the map search to locate your property address and the tabs for information to estimate depth to groundwater, estimate depth to the base of the shallow aquifer, a guide to water quality in the area, whether the area is likely suitable for garden bores, and details of groundwater licences around you.
For more information on groundwater in your area send Water Information Reporting a query at email@example.com.
Where are garden bores suitable?
Garden bores should only be installed in suitable areas.
Refer to our Perth Groundwater Map for the Perth-Peel metropolitan area to help guide you on areas suitable for installing a domestic garden bore, and for an indication of depth to groundwater.
If you are considering installing a bore in an area not covered by these maps, seek advice from either our regional office nearest to you Contact Us or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Garden bores should not be installed close to wetlands or rivers, or in areas with poor groundwater quality – such as near contaminated sites, or if iron-staining or odour occurs.
Bores close to the coastline or estuaries are at risk of drawing in saltwater if a bore is installed too deep, or has a pump with a flow-rate that is too high.
Questions about odour, staining, colour of water
Bore water quality can vary considerably, and even in a location with good water quality, may change over time.
Scheme water can be a better choice for garden irrigation where groundwater is unsuitable or where sinking a bore is not the most cost-effective means of irrigation.
You may choose to have your bore water tested in a laboratory to determine its quality, or an accredited Waterwise Irrigation Specialist may be able to help you with your query or contact Water Information Reporting at email@example.com.
Frequently asked questions about garden bores
How do I know if my garden is irrigated from scheme or bore?
To check if your sprinklers water from a tap or a garden bore look for:
- An irrigation controller – usually a box mounted near your electrical meter box. Power cables travelling from the box into the ground may indicate a mains-powered bore pump.
- Turn off your scheme water at your water-meter. Your water meter should stop turning over. Now turn on your irrigation – if it still works without scheme water your supply is coming from another source, likely a bore.
When properties change ownership advice regarding a garden bore should be provided to the new owner by the previous owner or agent.
The Department of Water does not provide records of domestic bore installations.
Why can’t I use my bore to water my garden in winter?
There is a permanent winter sprinkler ban in place for the Perth-Peel Metropolitan area and the South West, which includes garden bore users. This is because evaporation rates in Perth and the South West are low in winter and there is usually enough rainfall to sustain lawns and gardens without additional irrigation.
The winter sprinkler ban aims to prevent wastage and save water for use in the drier months. Groundwater that is not taken from the shallow aquifer during winter will recharge the saturated zones of the soil and will improve your ability to pump over summer.
Water-wise irrigation rates for your garden sprinklers
Sprinkler restrictions vary across the state due to variation in groundwater resources and climate.
All groundwater users need to be water-wise and efficient to ensure groundwater is available now and into the future. The South West of the state is experiencing a drying climate, resulting in a decline in our available groundwater resources.
Why is untreated bore water not recommended for drinking purposes?
The use of groundwater from domestic garden bores for drinking is not recommended where scheme water is available. Water supplied through a town water supply scheme is treated in accordance with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines to ensure it is safe for human consumption, and is very consistent in quality.
Groundwater should be professionally tested to ensure it is ‘fit for purpose’, or be treated according to Department of Health guidelines prior to use. Although groundwater quality in the shallow aquifers of the Perth-Peel region is generally good for non-potable purposes, it is not safe to consume water from garden bores without appropriate testing, treatment as required, and ongoing monitoring. Groundwater from your bore may contain contaminants, including heavy metals and bacteria that could make you very ill, even if the water comes from a relatively deep bore.
You should regularly have your bore water tested in a NATA-accredited laboratory to ensure it meets drinking water standards if you wish to use it for potable supply.
You should seek advice from the Department of Health or from your local government health officer if you wish to use groundwater for drinking, and check our advice note on private drinking water safety.
Shared garden bores
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. If there is a dispute about the legal obligations, this is not the responsibility of the Department of Water to manage, but a civil matter.
If you are sharing a bore it is recommended that all details are provided as part of transfer of property ownership.
To register a shared garden bore please contact the Department of Water on 1800 508 885 (and select option 1) or send an email
When do I require a water licence for my garden bore?
A water licence is required:
- if your garden bore abstracts from a confined or artesian aquifer, or
- if you irrigate an area larger than 0.2ha (2000m2).