Water sources in Queensland
Water service providers (including local councils) have a number of water supply options available when planning for secure water.
When water service providers choose water supply options, a mixture of infrastructure and non-infrastructure solutions (e.g. demand management) should be considered.
Best practice water supply planning also takes into account the environmental, social and economic impacts and benefits of water supply sources.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Rainwater tanks that collect water for outdoor watering, washing machines and toilet flushing can be used to significantly reduce household water.
Water 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.
Water 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.
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.
For information on portable desalination, read the portable desalination review (PDF, 718KB).
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 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 for councils (PDF, 384KB).
- Last reviewed: 2 Sep 2019
- Last updated: 28 Feb 2020