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Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy

Water sources in Queensland

Local councils and water service providers have a number of water supply options available when planning for secure water.

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

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.

Best practice water supply planning also takes into account the environmental, social and economic impacts and benefits of water supply sources. When choosing water supply options, a mixture of infrastructure and non-infrastructure solutions such as demand management may be the most cost effective.

Conventional water sources

Dams, barrages and weirs

Dams, barrages and weirs are constructed barriers that hold water to provide a reservoir for water supply or energy production. There are approximately 68 large dams and barrages (over 10,000ML) and 261 small surface water storages across the state. This infrastructure provides water to a large portion of Queensland's population for drinking, irrigation, industry and business. The Queensland Globe provides information on our water resources.


Many communities across Queensland rely on groundwater. These resources are vast although sometimes aquifers are poorly understood.

Water carting

Water carting is used by some communities to top up their supplies when they are low. This water is usually sourced from another town's treated water supply. Water carting is also important during drought for people relying on water from rainwater tanks.

Alternative water sources


Desalination is usually used to supply drinking water to communities that do not have access to other sources such as dams and groundwater. This includes mining towns, islands, regional towns and even some of our big cities. As desalination is not dependant on rainfall, it can also be an important water supply for communities during drought. For example, the Gold Coast desalination plant is a valuable climate resilient source for South East Queensland.

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. Recycled water is used for watering parks, golf courses, agriculture and industrial use. Recycled water into Wivenhoe Dam is a planned drought response for South East Queensland.


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 reduce household water use by around 25%. Read how to maintain rainwater tanks.


Greywater from baths, showers and laundries can be used to for garden watering. This is one way people can reduce pressure on the water supply system. Read guidelines and options for reusing greywater.

Last updated:
6 December 2017
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