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The challenges of drinking water supply in WA

About this lesson

Students identify the challenges of supplying quality drinking water in WA and then in groups present their findings.

Year level: 10

Theme: Water supply

Learning objectives

Students can:
  • identify the challenges that affect the sustainability of supplying drinking quality, including human induced pollution
  • identify ways of protecting and managing catchments to protect water at source
  • work in a group to present findings.

Curriculum links


  • The human-induced environmental changes that challenge sustainability ACHGK070
  • Collect, select, record and organise relevant data and geographical information, using ethical protocols, from a range of appropriate primary and secondary sources ACHGS073
  • Present findings, arguments and explanations in a range of appropriate communication forms selected for their effectiveness and to suit audience and purpose, using relevant geographical terminology and digital technologies as appropriate ACHGS079

Things you will need

Lesson description


  • Discuss: where does our water come from?
  • Students to watch the video Catchments to tap (9:06) and then answer the below questions:
    • What is surface water? (Water collecting on the ground or in a stream, river, lake, wetland, dam, or ocean)
    • What is groundwater? (Water located beneath the ground surface in soil
      pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations)
    • What is an aquifer? (An underground layer of rock or sand that can absorb and hold water)
    • What is a water catchment area? (An area of land where surface water from precipitation converges to a single point and joins a water body or seeps into the groundwater)
    • Name three sources of drinking water? (Surface water, groundwater and desalinated water)
    • What is the greatest risk to drinking water? (Pathogens from pollution)
    • What can you do to help look after catchments? Answers:
      • Keep an eye out for pollution
      • Report things dumped in a catchment area
      • Always follow signs and rules in a drinking water catchment
      • Be a catchment friend.


  • Discuss as a class: Isn’t it great that we can drink our water straight from the tap? Do you think we take our safe water for granted? Explain to students that the protection and management of drinking water catchments is the most important barrier to contamination of drinking water, as it ensures the highest quality raw water is used for drinking water. (See Source protection fact sheet).
  • Break students up into groups. Groups are to prepare a presentation for the class as follows:
    • Group 1 – reports on how people contaminate water in WA. (e.g. contamination by manure from farm animals, impacted by mining or industry, pollution from runoff, nutrients from domestic sources, illegal dumping in catchments, contamination by people, contamination of the catchment etc.) Search ‘contamination’ at
    • Group 2 – reports on how water is treated to ensure it meets drinking quality standards (e.g. disinfection, ultra-filtration). Search ‘drinking water quality’ at or at Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG).
    • Remaining groups select, or are nominated, a regional water supply scheme to investigate (see the WA's major water supply scheme fact sheet). Groups are to report on local issues for the region’s water source, and explain why it is important to protect drinking water at source and how this is undertaken. Search ‘source protection’ at

Reflect & summarise

  • Groups present their findings. A nominated scribe highlights the main points on the board.
  • As a class, discuss the main challenges of supplying quality drinking water in regional WA and identifies ways of looking after water supplies at source.
  • Summarise that the more we look after groundwater and surface water, the less we need to treat it.

Extension activities

Teacher background information

Drinking water is defined as water intended primarily for human consumption, either directly, as supplied from the tap, or indirectly, in beverages, ice or foods prepared with water.

Supplying quality drinking water in WA

Every day Water Corporation provides quality drinking water to Perth and over 220 small communities scattered throughout WA. It is one of Australia’s largest water suppliers delivering over 366 billion litres of high quality drinking water from 128 dams and weirs and 96 borefields to over a million properties.

We manage water quality from source water through to the consumer, and strongly advocate source protection and primacy of drinking water quality over other land use. We also use a risk-based approach to identify and manage potential threats to water quality.

Protecting our drinking water

Preventing contamination and minimising potential hazards is an essential part of providing safe drinking water. The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) represents the latest scientific evidence on good quality drinking water. Multiple barriers are used to ensure the safety of drinking water, these include:

  • protected catchments and groundwater recharge areas
  • large reservoirs with long water storage times
  • water treatment and disinfection
  • maintaining chlorine residuals through the system
  • ensuring tanks and bores are sealed.

How we can help protect our water supply

Providing consistently safe drinking water is critical to the health and wellbeing of WA. Many of us take for granted that we can safely drink water straight from the tap.

No matter where our water comes from, in order to be able to drink it, it needs to be disinfected to ensure that it is of drinking water quality standard. Treatment is resource heavy and costly. If we can do more to safeguard our water at its source, then it requires less treatment.

We can all do our bit to safeguard our precious water supply by:

  • reducing our use of pesticides, detergents and fertilisers
  • stopping the dumping of rubbish
  • abiding by catchment care requirements
  • reporting dumped items in a catchment
  • being waterwise and do as much as we can to save water.

Did you know?

Water Corporation operates over 34,000  kilometres of water main. Add another 6,075 kilometres and it could wrap around Earth’s Equator (40,075 kms). That’s a lot of pipe!

Key vocabulary

  • Chloraminated: The use of chlorine and ammonia to produce a long lasting disinfectant
  • Contaminate: To make something impure by exposing it to or adding in a poisonous or polluting substance
  • Pathogen: A disease causing micro-organism (e.g. bacteria or virus)
  • Potable water: Water that is suitable for drinking
  • Surface water: Water that is collecting either on the ground, in a stream, river, lake, wetland, dam or ocean
  • Turbidity: The cloudy appearance of water caused by the presence of suspended matter