Dealing with different ideas on water


On 21 September 2015, responsibility for water policy and resources was transferred to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources - Administrative Arrangement Order made on 21 September 2015.

This website will be updated to reflect these changes.

There are numerous water topics on which people have differing ideas and opinions. These generally arise from:

  • varying scientific, economic, social and environmental perspectives and values
  • insufficient scientific exploration
  • perceptions about human health risk
  • exposure to misinformation.

Differing ideas can sometimes lead to a misconception. For example this can be as simple as mistaking the stormwater system for the sewerage system or as complex as scientific concepts relating to weather and climate change.

There are limited educational resources online that specifically address water misconceptions. Teachers and educators should reinforce the importance of adopting good scientific approaches and principles when addressing all water related issues.

To improve 'water literacy' students need to be familiar with and not afraid to use biological, chemical and physical science concepts when investigating water issues. Teachers should review the properties of water section of the Water Education Toolkit for educational resources covering key physical and chemical properties and processes associated with water as a basis for understanding more complex water concepts.

Getting the facts right

A list of recommended websites has been compiled to help teachers address common water related issues.

Teachers may require additional information to reinforce their understanding of the topics or identify resources to facilitate class discussion.

The following websites have been specifically highlighted to:

  • help teachers identify and improve understanding of key water related concepts
  • gather statistics and facts on water resources and water use to support their teaching and dispel misinformation
  • provide resources for teachers to use in facilitating class discussion on common water related misinformation and misconceptions.

This section provides links to reputable websites for teachers to review to identify accurate information and data on water in Australia.

Australian Water Association (AWA)

Water in Australia: Facts & Figures, Myths & Ideas developed by the Australian Water Association is an important resource highlighting some common misconceptions about water in Australia. This resource consists of a series of fact sheets providing background information and statistics on water in Australia and dispelling some basic misconceptions about water and water management. The site can be found at:

These fact sheets have a strong focus on water supply and address some of the controversial recurrent issues including:

  • Water use and major water users in Australia
  • Rainwater tanks and stormwater collection
  • Water recycling and reuse
  • Desalination
  • Dams and reservoirs
  • Groundwater
  • National water grid
  • Turning rivers inland
  • Agriculture
  • Supplying water from wet regions and over long distances
  • Water pricing
  • Towing icebergs
  • Cloud seeding

Such a collection is potentially valuable as a classroom or library information resource which can be used to develop a range of class extension activities.

Urban Ecology Australia

This site provides information and statistics on a range of water related issues in an attempt to dispel misinformation and promote discussion of water related issues. The site can be found at:

The topics covered include:

  • Desalination
  • Greywater
  • Water recycling
  • National Water Initiative
  • Rainwater tanks
  • Stormwater
  • Water allocation
  • Water conservation
  • Water costing
  • Water for cities
  • Water for gardens
  • Water for households
  • Water for rivers
  • Water for rice
  • Water pricing
  • Water use

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

The ABC is a valuable resource for addressing misconception issues. ABC news stories, articles and activities are available to address a range of water related concepts from water recycling to weather patterns and drought. The ABC website is a good resource for locating information and resources on human and society perceptions to facilitate discussion.

It is recommended to search the following ABC sites:

National Film and Sound Archive

The National Film and Sound Archive Digital learning resources provides audiovisual resources and recommended class activities for addressing specific misinformation topics of drought and water supply. The following resources have been identified on the National Film and Sound Archive website which address specific misconception issues:

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

The Australian Bureau of Statistics collects and analyses data for the Australian government and public. A range of statistics and information is available on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website covering topics such as:

  • Urban and rural water use
  • Australian water resources
  • Societal perceptions on water use
  • Issues and trends in Australia's environment
  • Business water use
  • State and Territory water use

This site can be used to assist teachers to develop resources addressing misinformation issues. Topics covered include water use and water use patterns, societal perceptions and views on water use and trends in water use and management in Australia.

Teachers can use this information to develop their own resources to tackle specific misconception or misinformation issues. Useful resources published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics include:

National Water Commission (NWC)

The National Water Commission provides a range of material relating to water resources, water use and management.

The National Water Commission is responsible for driving national water reform as part of the Australian Government's National Water Initiative. This site can be used by teachers to develop resources using verified and robust statistics and information on the following topics:

  • Water use and availability
  • Australian water resources
  • Groundwater
  • Urban water
  • Water for the environment
  • Water availability and use
  • Water markets water pricing
  • Water planning