Hunter Water has defended its decision to wind back water restrictions, saying the region is unlikely to reach the trigger for level 2 restrictions before spring, even under dry conditions.
Water restrictions changed from level 2 back to level 1 on Monday after recent rain lifted the Hunter's water storage up to 63.8 per cent capacity.
The announcement that level 2 restrictions would be lifted came under fire on social media as some residents questioned whether the decision was premature.
"Why wouldn't we keep these restrictions a little longer? You don't have to water your lawn the day after it has rained," one person said on The Maitland Mercury's Facebook page.
"Why? Shouldn't we stay on Level 2 a bit longer so dams fill up more? Shouldn't the percentage be high before easing restrictions?" another asked.
Australian Community Media put the question to Hunter Water after it sent out a press release on Monday urging residents to keep conserving water as restrictions were wound back.
"While this is a step in the right direction, we need to see further increase in our storage level before we are confident we are out of this severe drought," the press release stated.
Hunter Water said the decision to return to Level 1 "was about balancing the need to continue saving water during this severe drought, while also ensuring the continuity of our customers' lives and businesses".
"Hunter Water recognises that water restrictions affect everyone in our community, and in some cases they can have an economic impact for businesses that rely on water," a spokesperson said.
The decision took into account current storage and a "favourable outlook from the Bureau of Meteorology".
"Even under dry conditions, we are unlikely to reach the trigger for level 2 water restrictions (which comes in at 50 per cent total storage) before spring.
"While this is a positive step in our drought recovery, we realise we aren't out of the woods yet, which is why we continue to encourage our community to keep up the great water saving behaviours they have demonstrated since water restrictions were introduced.
"Together, we are using 20 per cent less water than what we expected in these weather conditions, which amounts to the average water use of 70,000 households in the same period."
Hunter Water expects the region's water storage levels will reach 65 per cent capacity by the end of the month.
Level 1 water restrictions mean outdoor watering is permitted with a trigger nozzle hose before 10am and after 4pm, and vehicles can be washed with a bucket, trigger nozzle hose or pressure cleaner. The use of sprinklers for watering of gardens or lawns and the hosing of hard surfaces is not permitted.