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About this lesson

Students investigate the physical, social, environmental and economic effects of floods.

Year level: 7

Theme: Stormwater and waterways

Learning objectives

Students can:
  • investigate a local or WA flood or undertake an inquiry on floods
  • explain the physical, social, environmental and economic effects of flood
  • collect, select and record significant data
  • present findings and ideas.

Curriculum links


  • The causes, impacts and responses to an atmospheric or hydrological hazard ACHGK042
  • Develop geographically significant questions and plan an inquiry, using appropriate geographical methodologies and concepts ACHGS047
  • Collect, select and record relevant geographical data and information, using ethical protocols, from appropriate primary and secondary sources ACHGS048
  • Present findings, arguments and ideas in a range of communication forms selected to suit a particular audience and purpose; using geographical terminology and digital technologies as appropriate ACHGS053

Things you will need

  • Computer and internet access

Lesson description


  • Talk about how floods are unpredictable and destructive and they can happen in regions that have never seen rain. They can cause death and injuries, isolate communities, damage major infrastructure, cut essential services, destroy properties and destroy livelihoods.
  • Watch the video Flood disaster in Queensland (4:30).
  • Discuss the physical, social, environmental and economic effects that a flood can have on a community. For example, flooding can:
    • have health implications (such as waterborne diseases)
    • damage infrastructure (such as water supplies and wastewater systems)
    • affect peoples livelihoods (for example, a shopkeeper loses stock and income because of floodwater damage)
    • result in a breakdown of communications and essential services and supplies (such as fuel and food not being delivered).
  • Floods happen in all parts of Australia and in areas that haven't been flooded for years. View the historical photos of flooding in South Perth on 8 July 1930 at the State Library of Western Australia.


Choose one of the following activities:

  1. Have students investigate major floods that have occurred in your local area or in Perth, Moora, Carnarvon, Busselton, Kalgoorlie or Karratha. Map these places and explain why they have been prone to flooding (e.g. low lying areas in Perth and cyclone prone areas bringing heavy rains). Find photos of the floods and news articles from the time using the local press and online libraries. Explain the physical social, environmental and economic effects of the flood on the community.
  2. Undertake an inquiry into floods. Students develop a significant question to answer. This should include an explanation of the physical, social, environmental and economic effects of floods. Possible inquiry questions are:
    • What are the impacts of floods in WA and are they increasing?
    • Are floods happening less often but more severely?
    • How does a flood in Carnarvon or another part of WA affect the state as a whole?
    • How and why do the emergency services plan for and act during a flood event?
    • What are the risks of flooding and how can these be minimised?

Reflect & summarise

Students present their research in a way of their choosing (e.g. narrative story, report, online presentation, oral presentation, drama, song, etc.)

Extension activities

Have students imagine they hear a warning that their town is about to be flooded. They are livestock farmers; get them to describe 10 things they could do to help mitigate (lessen) damage to themselves, family, property, business and the community.

Teacher background information

Floods in WA

In WA, flooding could happen anywhere, at any time and from a variety of water sources including rivers and creeks, storm tides, overflowing catchments and due to heavy rainfall caused by cyclones. Apart from the physical damage to property, experiencing a flood can be an extremely emotional time.

When do floods occur?

Many devastating floods have occurred in Australia. Your local area may have been affected by flood. Flooding occurs most commonly from heavy rainfall when natural watercourses do not have the capacity to convey excess water. They can also arise after a cyclone, where low lying coastal areas may flood due to storm surge from the ocean and heavy rain.

However, floods are not always caused by heavy rainfall. They can result from other phenomenon, particularly in coastal areas where inundation can be caused by a storm surge associated with a tropical cyclone, a tsunami or a high tide coinciding with higher than normal river levels. Dam failure, triggered for example by an earthquake, will result in flooding of the downstream area, even in dry weather conditions.

Major flooding in Karratha and Dampier is typically associated with storm surge. Flooding was a feature of historical cyclone events affecting Roebourne on the Harding River. However, the construction of the Harding River Dam, some 20km upstream of the town in 1983–84 has eased the flood threat to the town. (Source: Bureau of Meteorology)

During a flood you may become stranded for many days until the water subsides and some remote areas can be isolated for months by floods. If your home is near a waterway or on low-lying land it could be flooded, even if you have never seen floodwaters there. It does not have to be raining in your area for flooding to occur.

The impact of floods

Every year in Australia, floods cause millions of dollars damage to buildings and critical infrastructure, such as roads and railways as well as to agricultural land and crops. They also disrupt business and can affect the health of communities. Between 1967 and 2005, the average direct annual cost of flooding has been estimated at A$377 million. (Source: Geoscience Australia)

A timeline of major floods and cyclones in WA:

  • Cyclone Paul, North WA. April 2000
  • Cyclone George, North WA. March 2000
  • Perth, Jan 2000
  • Cyclone Vance, Exmouth. March 1999
  • Moora. March 1999
  • Cyclone Olivia, Pannawonica. April 1996
  • Cyclone Bobby, Kalgoorlie. February 1995
  • Perth Flood. Jan 1992
  • Cyclone Herbie, Carnarvon to Denham. May 1988
  • East Perth. July 1987
  • Cyclone Dean, Pilbara. February 1980
  • Cyclone Amy, Port Hedland. January 1980
  • Cyclone Hazel, Kimberley and Pilbara Coast. March 1979
  • Cyclone Alby, Perth. April 1978
  • Cyclone Thelma, Port Hedland. December 1975


Did you know?

Whim Creek, in the Pilbara, received 747mm of rain in one day on 3 April 1898.  Reportedly caused by a willy willy, this is the highest daily rainfall recorded for WA since records began.

Key vocabulary

  • Cyclone: A storm or system of winds that rotates about a centre of low atmospheric pressure and often brings heavy rains.
  • Flood: An overflow of water that submerges dry land. 
  • Storm surge: The difference between the sea level and predicted sea level.
  • Tsunami: A large destructive wave.
  • Willy Willy: A strong, well-formed and relatively long-lived whirlwind.