Water for Generations

Our source water strategy

Icon Water is committed to providing a safe, secure and sustainable water supply for the people of the ACT and the region, for generations to come.

Our strategy aims to ensure Icon Water meets unrestricted water demand for the ACT and region 95% of the time. 

We are able to store 275 GL of water across our four water supply reservoirs.

We are continually assessing our water supply levels to meet future population growth and cope with any future droughts or impact from climate change.

The Canberra community has made a significant contribution to our current high level of water security by reducing individual and collective use. Today we can store more water than ever before, which means that our source water system is expected to satisfy the required level of service for at least several decades.

Graph depicting probability of restrictions

The governance of water in the ACT

The amount of water that Icon Water can supply to the community is set by the availability of water in our storages and the legal right to take the water. 

The ACT’s water resources are part of the Murray Darling Basin, governed by the Commonwealth Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA). The ACT Government manages the amount of water used in the Canberra region, under direction from the MDBA.  

The ACT Water Resources Act 2007 sets out how the ACT Government manages water resources in the ACT. The ACT and Region Catchment Management Coordination Group was established under this Act to provide a regional approach to water resource management across jurisdictions. 

The ACT Water Strategy: Striking the Balance 2014–2044 (ACT Government, 2014) sets out the ACT Government’s vision for water resource management in the ACT. It details the ACT Government’s water-related policies and priorities.

Responding to climate and growth

Between 1997–2009, Australia experienced an extended period of drought known as the Millennium Drought. During this period, water restrictions were in place in the ACT for eight years. 

In October 2007, the ACT Government announced measures aimed at providing water security for the ACT. These measures included major water security projects to build the infrastructure and implement the arrangements necessary to secure our long-term water supply. 

Icon Water’s work to enlarge the Cotter Dam and build a pipeline to transfer water from the Murrumbidgee River to the Googong Reservoir were the key infrastructure projects in the ACT. These projects were completed in 2012 and increased the ACT’s total water storage capacity by 35%.

One of the ACT Government’s water security measures was a target reduction in per capita water consumption of 25%, compared to pre-drought consumption. Since the Millennium Drought, the Canberra community has been water smart and reduced per capita water consumption by 40%. This better than anticipated reduction has further enhanced our water security.


How we operate our sources

Icon Water’s internal Water Sourcing Guidelines help with decision making on the use of water sources to balance operating costs with water security outcomes. We forecast the storage levels for different climate futures to evaluate both operating cost and the risk of going into water restrictions. 

Our guidelines promote the use of sources based on operational efficiencies and include the flexibility to operate dams to balance supplies across the water sources.

Bendora is our primary water source when we have high water storage levels. If the total storage levels drop we look at taking water from our other sources.

The graphic below depicts what water source will be used based on the volume of total water available.


Figure 2 Combined storage levels of Corin, Bendora, Cotter and Googong reservoirs from 2007-17


Review of our strategy will occur when:

  • there is a significant change in Icon Water’s infrastructure or catchments (the source water system)
  • there is a significant regional expansion in services for Icon  Water’s  source water system
  • there is a significant change in any of the key planning variables such as climate or population
  • the water storage level drops below 50%.

This summary is also available to download: Water for Generations-Source water strategy

This full, more detailed versions of the strategy can be accessed here: Source water strategy