Managing climate change risks to water

Droughts, floods, cyclones, bushfires, and other extreme weather events are normal. How often they happen and how hard they hit us has increased and become more  unpredictable.
Climate change means:

  • hotter, dryer weather, resulting in higher evaporation, drying our landscapes, and reducing river flows, dam levels and groundwater recharge
  • more frequent and longer dry periods across more of the state, making water resources scarcer
  • more frequent and intense fires that can damage plants, increase erosion, and reduce water availability and quality in rivers and dams
  • changes in cropping zones, cycles, and plant and animal distributions including biodiversity loss impacted by changing temperatures, evaporation and rainfall
  • heavier, more intense rain that will increase the likelihood of flooding, erosion and overtopping of dams
  • higher average and peak sea levels, exposing fresh surface water and groundwater sources in low-lying areas to saltwater intrusion.

We use climate modelling to identify water impacts across regions or in specific water plan areas. We scale down global climate projections to help predict how global temperature increases will affect our regional climates. We combine this with our existing models and test predictions. This lets us plan to protect our water supplies for a range of futures.

You can read more in our report Queensland’s water plans in a variable and changing climate (PDF, 19.0MB).

Use the report to guide your team, business or community group to make wise decisions about your use of water. You can:

  • plan for your future
  • prepare for emergencies
  • learn how others are adapting
  • connect with others
  • get support for your needs.

This work connects with:

We coordinate and manage 23 water plans for Queensland. These plans set out how we share and care for water. They provide for safe, reliable water to be available now and in the future for all water users. Our work is ongoing. We continue to:

  • listen to your needs
  • encourage cooperation
  • collaborate with others
  • use science and data to evaluate ideas
  • share what we’ve learned
  • think about water holistically
  • respect Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander people’s cultural knowledge.

More information

  • We recognise that climate change is a matter of statewide, national and international significance. That’s why we collaborate widely across the water sector, with peoples and communities, and with all levels of government to:

    • develop a detailed, shared understanding of current and future water availability informed by our monitoring and modelling programs
    • define and manage current and future water resource risks
    • explore, implement and communicate the broad range of innovations and actions we’re taking to respond to climate change and adapt to future climate realities.
  • Our climate has changed and will continue to do so. Recognising that our changing climate presents risks for all Queenslanders, the Queensland Government uses the best available science and modelling to understand and manage current and future climate risks.

    The Queensland Government is committed to a climate resilient future, including mitigation measures such as those set out in the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan (primarily emissions reduction and renewable energy targets), and adaptation actions. Our commitment to managing climate impacts on our water resources is reflected within our water laws.

    Queensland is divided into 22 catchment-based water plan areas. The Great Artesian Basin covers a large proportion of Queensland and a 23rd water plan manages this water resource. These plans govern the way water is shared and managed, ensuring safe, reliable water is available now and over the long-term for all water users, including environmental purposes, cultural water and achieve other aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

    Within the water planning framework, we work with scientists and stakeholders to understand current and future water requirements and the risks that changes in climate pose to water availability.

    Clear communication and information help water users to make informed contributions in the water planning process, including decisions around the risks that climate change poses to water entitlements. This is critical for ensuring the ongoing provision of safe, reliable drinking water while also meeting long-term demands of other water users, particularly in times of drought.

  • The water sector in Queensland is accustomed to floods, droughts and other extreme weather events, and adapt to these events by sharing knowledge and collaborating across the state. Building resilience within the water sector is an ongoing process and we will need to continue sharing information as we find our way through the challenges climate change presents.

    We know that industry and communities are already adapting. For example, the agricultural sector is making big strides in planting crops that can tolerate hotter, drier conditions, and needing less water.

    The urban and industrial sectors are increasingly looking to make better use of water sources that are less impacted by climate change, such as desalination, recycled water, stormwater storage and reuse and managed aquifer recharge. Demand management strategies that promote more efficient use of water in the households and across small business minimise the loss of precious water in reticulated water systems. Smart metering and leak detection technologies also help to minimise water wastage.

    Proponents of infrastructure are modelling performance under more extreme weather events to confirm that the needs of downstream water users, including the environment, can still be met.

  • The Queensland Government understands that we have a central role to play in supporting climate adaptation initiatives and in developing new solutions and guidance to support climate resilience across the State. The Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water is working to address the immediate and long-term impacts of climate change on water through:

    • building our understanding of water availability impacts on water supply scheme performance, ecological and cultural values, access to water entitlements and water use behaviour
    • providing information to water users and the community on likely climate impacts and working with communities, industry, researchers, stakeholder groups and others to continue conversations about adaptation and preparedness
    • engaging people across Queensland and beyond to understand the water interests of our communities, our Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, our economies and our diverse environments
    • collaborating with other government departments to help Queensland’s water users understand their water and its value
    • continually updating water monitoring and measurement technologies including using remote-sensing techniques to track how water moves through and is available in a landscape
    • interpreting and communicating the modelling that informs and underpins water planning decisions
    • working across government and with researchers and industry experts to model how our water storage, treatment and distribution infrastructure perform under extreme weather event scenarios
    • partnering with councils to understand their water supply security risks and the ability of water supply systems to meet future growth, with consideration given to potential climate change impacts
    • collaborating with local stakeholders to complete assessments of water needs in some of the State’s most significant food bowl regions to identify opportunities to improve water security and support food security planning
    • strategically and systematically reviewing and updating Queensland’s 23 water plans to ensure they keep pace with the latest climate science and continue to meet the water needs of all Queenslanders

    While much progress has been made, climate science is continually evolving, and we are committed to continually building our understanding of climate impacts to develop better responses to risks for our water resources.

    Through strong engagement with all water stakeholders, arming ourselves with the latest science and driving innovation and continual improvement, we are strengthening the water sector now and into the future, for the benefit of all Queenslanders.

Last updated: 08 Dec 2023