Let’s talk water

Comedian Andrew Hansen looking disgruntled
Think you know water? Test your knowledge against Andrew with our quiz.

Water is a precious and finite resource that we can’t take for granted. Know the basics, so you can join the discussions shaping Melbourne’s water future.

Melbourne has some of the cleanest and highest-quality drinking water in the world, which Melbourne Water manages and protects on behalf of the community.

Melburnians have been great water savers since the Millennium Drought. But there’s more we can do to protect all aspects of the water cycle – read on and learn how it relates to you, or put your knowledge to the test with our water literacy quiz .


Where does our water come from?

There’s no new water.

All the earth’s water already exists, and has continually been moving through the natural water cycle for billions of years.

It is captured in the ground, oceans, lakes, ice, snow and the atmosphere.

Less than 1% of the earth’s water is available to drink.

Around 97% of earth’s water is in our oceans, making it unsuitable to drink. Much of the freshwater on our planet is stored in glaciers and ice caps.

Population growth, urban development and climate change are affecting the quality and quantity of fresh water available globally.

Water cycle

Get to know the water cycle
Learn how water moves between the land, ocean and atmosphere to end up in your tap.

Climate change makes rainfall less reliable.

Less reliable rain can dramatically impact on our water supplies. In fact, during the Millennium Drought we saw storages drop 20% in a single year (2006).

Climate change can also shift rain patterns, causing less to fall over the forested catchments that are our main source of water. A drier climate also has long-term effects on the way these forests absorb and release water into our reservoirs.

So we can’t rely on building more dams.

Instead, we need to:

  • make the best use of all water available, and use it more efficiently
  • look at alternative water sources such as recycled water, groundwater and stormwater
  • use our desalination plant to help build and maintain a buffer of water in our storages.

See how the industry is taking action.


Where does our water go?

Sewage is around 98% water.

It’s easy to forget about water once it’s flushed down your toilet or drain – known as sewage.

And because sewage contains everything that goes down the drain when you wash your dishes, bathe, throw on a load of washing or flush the toilet, it’s actually around 98% water!

Sewage is recyclable.

Because of its high water content, we’re able to turn sewage into recycled water.

This can be used to water parks and gardens near our treatment plants, and helps take pressure off our precious drinking water supplies.

Recycled water that isn’t used is safely discharged into the ocean or bay.

Flushable wipes aren’t actually flushable.

Our sophisticated sewerage system carries wastewater from homes and businesses to treatment plants, where it is processed and treated.

But there are some things our pipes can’t cope with. Prevent blockages – don’t flush things like:

  • flushable wipes
  • tissues
  • sanitary products
  • cotton tips
  • nappies.

Find out more about our innovative sewerage system:

Raindrop character moving through bacteria


Think about the water around you…

House drains vs. street drains

Now that we’ve thought about the water in your home, have you ever wondered where the drains in your street end up?

Stormwater pipes carry water that runs off roads, roofs and other paved surfaces. This water carries pollution and litter with it, travelling into local rivers and creeks and eventually the bay.

Unlike sewage, it is often untreated – making it damaging to the environment.

Increased development in Greater Melbourne means there more hard surfaces that do not soak up rain when it falls. This means there is more stormwater flowing quickly from our suburban streets into our rivers and creeks.

To reduce impacts of stormwater on the health of Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne Water uses constructed wetlands and raingardens.


Test your knowledge

Comedian Andrew Hansen looking disgruntled

Now you’ve read up on all things water, it’s time to put that new knowledge to use!

Answer five questions to give Andrew a drenching – the more you get right, the bigger the splash! Get them wrong, and the joke’s on you…

So the real question is: soak or joke?

Take the quiz 

Last updated:
2 June 2021