Water signs

There are strange signs about water usage all over Melbourne. For example:

Should I be worried? The typography implies I should. But unless you’re combining your own hydrogen and oxygen atoms, it’s all water recycled?

Here’s another one.

Again, the typography implies this is a dire warning. Rainwater in use! Beware! But rainwater is usually in use. It waters plants, cleans streets, etc. It’s very useful.

From what I gather, the intention of the signs is to convey something like this:

Don’t be upset with us during a drought because you see we have thriving plants or a beautiful lawn. We’re not using municipally treated water. We’re using rainwater we’ve captured, or gray water, etc.

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12 comments on “Water signs
  1. Scott McFarland says:

    The water is non-potable. They don’t want you to drink it and get sick.

  2. I sometimes see signs like this in Florida warning that some piece of landscaping is kept alive with “reclaimed” water or similar. I always thought this was to caution people against drinking gray water from sprinklers or hoses that they might find. Somewhat unlikely behavior for typical suburban residents, I grant, but I seem to remember some of those signs explicitly forbidding drinking or saying “non-potable”, etc.

    Now that I think of it, the warnings might not even be true; it’s possible they could sometimes be a way of making a property’s water sources less attractive to the homeless population.

  3. John says:

    I agree with Eiki that drinking water from sprinkler systems is “unlikely behavior for typical suburban residents,” though perhaps the owners are being cautious.

    The one local person I asked about it says the signs are a result of water shortages a few years ago. The signs are so common that I suspect they’re required by law.

  4. Ben Bradley says:

    If it’s to discourage the homeless, perhaps they should write it in rebuses!

  5. Until not so long ago, that last sign (“Rain water in use”) in Colorado would imply a violation of the law:

  6. John says:

    Alejandro: That’s bizarre. I’d never heard that.

  7. Ankur says:

    I saw a sign in Melbourne during water restrictions that read: “Rain water in use. The grass is buffalo grass which is drought tolerant. To the person who likes cutting hoses, a new hose and an apology would be nice.”

  8. Gav Gray says:

    The government here often impose water restrictions during drought times. When this happens, you aren’t allowed water your garden, wash cars, etc unless the water is from rainwater tanks and grey water. There are hefty fines for not obeying (over $400), and people are encouraged to “dob in a water waster”.

    Meanwhile, the government has wasted billions on a controversial water desalination plant (massive delays, way over budget, much cheaper viable options, etc)

  9. Gav Gray says:

    PS. You can see my work building in the background of that bottom photo :)

  10. Malcolm Tredinnick says:

    As noted by your friend, John, most eastern cities in Australia (Melbourne, Sydney — where I live — and Canberra) had fairly aggressive water restrictions in place for a lot of the 2000′s. To the point that watering by hand holding a hose outside certain (evening and v. early morning) hours would garner a non-trivial fine. Some public facilities had exemptions for various reasons, but even those places, partly as a PR exercise and partly to contribute to the cause they tended to very publicly show that they were using non-potable grey water as much as possible. These days, a decade later, it’s pretty routine to see these signs everywhere. Amusing to read about their effects on foreigners.

    Never really thought of the font as indicating danger — more as a clear font for public signage (which you kind of want on danger warnings as well).

  11. Lars Yencken says:

    In the worst of the drought and associated water restrictions, a lush garden was a sure sign that you were flaunting the water restrictions. So, if you had a nice garden and were doing the right thing and watering it from your own tank, or bore water, you told people so they didn’t get uppity.

  12. Steve Taylor says:

    Plain enough – during the drought conditions we had been having, a lush garden could only be created in two ways i) use recycled water or ii) break the law. I don’t think that’s too mysterious.