Melburnians will be able to water their gardens at any time and wash their cars at home for the first time in four years when restrictions are eased next week.
From September 1 – just three months before the state election – Melbourne will move from stage 3a restrictions back to stage 2.
This means people will be able to water their plants – but not their lawns – at any time provided they use a bucket, watering can or hose fitted with a trigger nozzle.
Cars will be able to be washed at home using either a high-pressure hose or a bucket.
Backyard spas and inflatable children's play pools will be able to be filled, and automatic watering systems will be able to be used on gardens between midnight and 4am on alternate days.
The ban on watering lawns with drinking water will remain.
Premier John Brumby said the easing of restrictions was possible because of good winter rains and government projects to supplement the city's supplies.
Melbourne's water storages are just shy of 40 per cent full – up from 27.8 per cent at this time last year.
Water Minister Tim Holding said the move to stage 2 restrictions was a reward to Melburnians for their ''fantastic'' water-savings efforts. He said average daily water use had fallen to 147 litres per person during the past year.
The government's Target 155 campaign, designed to encourage people to keep their daily water use below 155 litres a day, will continue under the stage 2 restrictions.
Mr Holding said the $5 billion desalination plant being built near Wonthaggi would come on line at the end of next year, ensuring Melbourne would never have to return to the stage 3 rules. ''Water restrictions go down, they don't go up,'' he said.
Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu said the easing of restrictions had nothing to do with Mr Brumby.
''These changes are because it has been raining and Melbourne families have been saving water,'' he said.
Mr Baillieu said household bills would go up ''for years to come because of John Brumby's mismanagement of water''. Environmental groups criticised the government's decision to ease water restrictions in the lead-up to November's election before delivering promised environmental flows to the Yarra River.
''It's a shame that the rivers can't vote,'' said Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham.