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Let's invent a water trading game

About this lesson

Students learn about the concept of water trading and develop a game to demonstrate their understanding.

Year level: 7

Theme: Water supply

Learning objectives

Students can:
  • understand what water trading is
  • discuss the advantages and disadvantages of water trading
  • create a game a game about water trading.

Curriculum links


  • The nature of water scarcity and ways of overcoming it, including studies drawn from Australia and West Asia and/or North Africa ACHGK040
  • 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

Lesson description


  • What is water trading? Have students brainstorm and list ideas.
  • Get students to read the fact sheet then discuss the main points.
  • In pairs, students discuss and separate the statements in the Water trading activity sheet into advantages and disadvantages. Discuss these as a class.


  • Explain to students that they are to create a game (either individually or as a group) that incorporates water trading, including its advantages and disadvantages. It can be based on games such as Bingo, Snakes & Ladders, Monopoly or a quiz etc. Students could also create an online game. View the Jacaranda Water Trading game as an example.
  • As a class decide on and create the success criteria for the game (i.e. educates, is easy to follow and fun to play).
  • Once games are completed, students swap and play each other's games. Students rate the games against the success criteria.

Reflect & summarise

  • Compile success criteria results. Which game was the most successful and why?
  • Discuss with students the main points about water trading and whether students are for or against it.

Extension activities

  • Explore issues surrounding the Australian Government’s Murray-Darling Basin Plan at Geogspace.
  • Debate or discuss: With a dry future, is irrigated agriculture in the South West of WA sustainable?

Teacher background information

Suggested advantages of water trading

(Numbers in brackets relate to where the statement can be found on the Water trading activity sheet)

  • Water trading improves the ability of farmers to react to changes in circumstances (i.e. less water available during periods of drought) (1)
  • Where water trading involves water being returned to a natural water source such as a river then the environment benefits (i.e. as in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan) (3)
  • Encourages irrigation farmers to use water more carefully (4)
  • Permanent trading has allowed farmers to secure the future water demands of new plantings on land that was not previously irrigated (8)
  • The trade in permanent entitlements has assisted the development of new industries such as the wine industry, which promotes economic activity in the region, bringing increased employment and investment (10)
  • Water trading helps decision making by farmers, including the decision to leave agriculture (11)
  • Can give farmers flexibility in decision making about their priorities for water use, as well as a means of risk and cash flow management, particularly in dry times (13)
  • In times of drought water trading can be a source of income for farmers (15)
  • As demonstrated by the Harvey Water Pipeline Project, water trading has helped fund water efficiency measure (16)
  • Farmers growing seasonal crops, such as rice, can manage their water risk using temporary water trading (17)

Suggested disadvantages

  • Water trading can have negative effects on local communities. There is strong community opposition to permanent trading of water out of a district (12)
  • Where water trading involves water being returned to the environment less water is available for irrigation farming (18)
  • Although water trading by entitlement holders is voluntary, the trade also affects third parties. Trade into a region can lead to increased competition in production, queuing for delivery of irrigation water, and higher water tables. Trade out of a region can lead to increased water delivery charges to remaining users (5)
  • Communities in regions exporting water can experience reduced populations and less spending (14)
  • Communities in regions importing water can experience increased populations without necessarily having the infrastructure and services to accommodate them (7)
  • Related service industries, such as agricultural services are affected by the growth and contraction of irrigation industries (19)
  • There is no guarantee that purchased water is used efficiently (6)
  • There are concerns that big companies will hoard water and become “water barons” (9)
  • Some irrigation farmers rely on a source of “cheap” water in order to grow their crops. Water trading may make water more expensive (2)
  • Farmers growing permanent crops such as fruit trees generally pay more for permanently traded water (20)


The Economic and Social Impacts of Water Trading – Case studies in the Victorian Murray Valley

Water markets and water trade


Did you know?

In WA a riparian water right historically refers to a right to take enough water to grow 2 acres of vegetables to feed a landowner’s servants.

Key vocabulary

  • Entitlement: The right to benefits specified especially by law or contract.
  • Irrigation: The artificial application of water to land or soil.
  • License: Someone who has been granted a license. 
  • Market intermediaries: An individual or firm that links buyers and sellers to other buyers and sellers.
  • Potable water: Water that is suitable for drinking.
  • Water trading: The process of temporarily or permanently buying and selling water entitlements.