Water sources in Queensland

When service providers (including local councils) choose water supply options and plan for secure water supplies, they should consider a mixture of infrastructure and non-infrastructure options.

Best practice water security planning should take into account the environmental, social and economic impacts and benefits of water supply options.

Queensland has a bulk water security strategy that provides a framework for the management of our bulk water supplies, including the state's objectives and the principles to guide investment.

Information is also available on developing level of service objectives for water security.

Non-infrastructure options

One of the primary non-infrastructure water supply options is to change the operation of water infrastructure to better utilise resources in particular conditions.

Another key non-infrastructure option is demand management, including rebates, water restrictions, and promoting waterwise use.

Conventional water sources

In Queensland, water for agricultural, industrial and urban use has traditionally been sourced from surface or groundwater resources (e.g. dams, weirs and bores).

Dams, weirs and barrages

Dams, weirs and barrages are constructed barriers that hold back water to provide a reservoir for water supply. There are approximately 67 large surface water storages (over 10,000 megalitres) and 271 small surface water storages across Queensland.

This infrastructure provides water to a large portion of Queensland's population for drinking, irrigation, industry and business.

In Queensland, you require permission to take water or interfere with water (including the construction of waterway barriers).

Learn more about water entitlements across Queensland using the water entitlement viewer.

Find out more about our water resources using the Queensland Globe spatial tool.


Groundwater or underground water is the water beneath the earth's surface that occurs in pore spaces and fractures of rock formations called aquifers. Groundwater is regulated and you may need authorisation before you can access it.

Queensland has a range of requirements that apply to bore construction and taking groundwater. All are designed to protect our groundwater resources and ensure they are used appropriately and efficiently.

Alternative water sources

Developing and accessing alternative water supplies such as wastewater, desalination, industrial wastewater (e.g. coal seam gas water), rainwater tanks and stormwater for non-drinking and drinking purposes can increase the diversity and overall security of supply.


Desalination can be used to treat seawater, brackish surface water and saline groundwater. It can be used as a permanent or temporary source of drinking water for communities that do not have access to other more cost-effective sources.

Since desalination is not dependent on rainfall, it can also be an important water supply for communities during drought.

Read more about the Gold Coast desalination plant, a valuable climate resilient source for South East Queensland.

Read about portable desalination plants (PDF, 718KB).

Recycled water

Recycled water sourced from wastewater treatment plants or industrial wastewater (including coal seam gas water) is another climate resilient water source with multiple benefits when treated and used appropriately.

More common uses of recycled water include watering parks, golf courses, agriculture and industrial use.

The addition of purified recycled water into Wivenhoe Dam is a planned drought response for South East Queensland. Read more about South East Queensland's Water Security Program.

Read more about Queensland health regulations related to recycled water and national guidelines for augmentation of drinking water supplies.


Stormwater harvesting and reuse includes collecting and treating stormwater locally for irrigation of sportsgrounds, parks and gardens.

Stormwater reuse schemes can also be used to provide industrial water and non-drinking water to homes for toilet flushing and outdoor water use. These systems can reduce drinking water demand, help preserve local waterway habitats and provide open space amenity for the community.

Read the national guidelines for the reuse of stormwater.


Rainwater tanks that collect water for outdoor watering, washing machines and toilet flushing can be used to significantly reduce household water.

A local government can make the installation of a rainwater tank or a supplementary water supply system compulsory for a new house or commercial building by 'opting-in' to Part 4.2 or Part 4.3 of the Queensland Development Code. Supplementary water supply systems include:

  • rainwater tank
  • dual reticulation
  • communal rainwater tank
  • approved grey water treatment plant
  • treated stormwater system.

Part 4.2 of the Code applies to residential buildings, while Part 4.3 of the Code applies to commercial buildings. The Code specifies minimum standards for installation, water quality, and health and safety of supplementary water supply systems.

A local council can seek approval from the Department of Energy and Public Works to opt-in to Parts 4.2 or 4.3 of the Code for all or part of a local government area, or for specific types of lots or buildings.

Find out more about water supply systems and how to opt-in.

Rainwater tank water quality is not regulated by the state or local government in Queensland. Service providers should encourage their customers to learn how to safely maintain rainwater tanks.


Greywater from baths, showers and laundries can be safely used for garden watering when managed appropriately. This can reduce pressure on the water supply system.

Service providers should encourage their customers to read guidelines and options for reusing greywater.

Contingency and emergency water supply options

Contingency and emergency water supplies are part of the drought response to help ensure that a community always has sufficient water supply.

Contingency supply

A contingency supply is a planned response to increase the likelihood that the expected demands of the community will be met when 'usual' supplies are compromised (e.g. during drought or during infrastructure breakdown). The contingency supply augments the towns' water supply, either temporarily or permanently.

Examples of contingency supply sources include:

  • new bore
  • temporary desalination plant
  • accessing a local waterhole
  • short-haul/low-volume water carting.

Emergency supply

Emergency supply is a planned response that is temporary and is required to provide sufficient supply to meet highly restricted demand. It is implemented when there is a low likelihood that 'usual' supplies will be able to meet expected demands or when there is inadequate supplies to meet demands.

Examples of emergency supply sources include:

  • temporary desalination plant that has capacity to supply only highly restricted demand
  • long distance/high-volume water carting
  • low-quality feed water sources (e.g. local waterhole) with high treatment costs.

Water carting

Water carting is used by some communities to top up their supplies when they are low. This water can be sourced from another town's treated water supply, or from a raw water source. Water carting is particularly important during drought for people who are not connected to a town water supply and rely on water from rainwater tanks.

For more information, read the Water carting guide (PDF, 384KB) or email UrbanWaterSupply@rdmw.qld.gov.au.