In the south west corner of Western Australia, climate change is significantly affecting our water supply. Although your thoughts may wander to idyllic coastlines, lush forests and the spoils of nature’s pantry, Water Corporation faces the ongoing challenge of reduced rainfall due to climate change.

Less rain means less water is making its way into our dams, which in turn means we’ve had to adapt the way we supply water.

If we’re not collecting enough rainwater, why not just build more dams?

The problem is, contrary to popular belief, dams don’t act as bowls that catch rainwater.

When the sky opens up, rain first falls onto the natural landscape. The dam catchment areas soak up rainfall like a sponge until they have satisfied their thirst. Only after the landscape is soaked does rainfall then flow into the dams—that water is called streamflow.

Due to consistently less rain over the years because of climate change, our parched catchment areas absorb most of the water before our dams have a chance to reap any reward. And it doesn’t look like this will improve anytime soon, either. Winter and spring rainfall is projected to decrease around 15% by 2030.

For that reason, even if we build more dams, there just wouldn’t be enough water flowing into them to make it worthwhile.

We no longer rely on rain to meet our water needs

As well as being one of our basic needs, water plays an intrinsic role in our WA lifestyles. It allows us to enjoy sports ovals, caravan parks, swimming lessons, green gardens and relaxing holidays. We rely on water in almost all aspects of our lives.

To continue to make new water memories, we have to reduce our vulnerability to climate change. One of the primary ways we are able to do this is by diversifying to climate independent sources – seawater desalination, groundwater replenishment and water recycling.

Dams still have an important role to play in collecting available streamflow. However, these days they’re primarily used as storage reservoirs for our desalinated water and groundwater, ready for when we need it most.