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WaterSmart Dams – Making Dams Work Again

This 3.5-year project aims to develop knowledge and water planning tools for farmers who need their dams to work in all years, and be able to make water investment decisions with confidence.

The project will involve 12 core demonstration sites, building farm-based water planning tools, workshops, field days and industry training. The project will investigate solutions including renovating existing dams, building new dams, and implementing evaporation suppression and runoff technologies.

The GGA through the South-West WA Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub, will collaborate with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and the University of Western Australia (UWA), leveraging their existing work and prior investment in this field as well as four grower group project partners including Compass Agricultural Alliance (Darkan), Southern Dirt (Kojonup), Merredin and Districts Farm Improvement Group (Merredin) and the Fitzgerald Biosphere Group (Jerramungup).

WaterSmart Dams builds on the existing WaterSmart Farms program – a collaborative DPIRD designed program researching sustainable groundwater supply options using on-farm desalinisation technology.

This project is jointly funded through the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund (FDF) and the Western Australian state government’s Agriculture Climate Resilience Fund (ACRF), supported by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD).

Photo Credit: Main project photo of Simon and Wendy Williamson’s rebuilt ‘roaded catchment’, dam and silt trap at Kukerin in
WA’s Upper Great Southern region. Photo: Peter Clifton, South West Catchments Council.


  1. In partnership with growers, better understand how dams can function in dry years and through co-design develop new farm water planning tools to create more drought-resilient farm enterprises and regional communities.

  2. Investigate and develop an understanding of how to make dams work again in dry years

  3. Partner with University of Western Australia (UWA) and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development experts, reviewing 12 farmer-hosted demonstration sites and data on dam-based solutions

  4. Create a co-designed customisable WaterSmart Evaluation Tool (WET) and sharing knowledge

  5. Make the WET tool freely available and supported beyond the end of the project by UWA. WET will also capture existing knowledge on desalination from the WaterSmart Farms project. The apps will support individual farms, private contractors, water planners and local communities to make drought resilient investment decisions.

Project Updates

Update 6 – WaterSmart Dams Water Quality results | December 2023

Update 5 – Merredin and Districts Farm Improvement Group’s Annual General Meeting stirs WaterSmart conversation in the community | October 2023

Update 4 – UWA’s research team on the road for a WaterSmart Dams check-in | June 2023

Update 3 – #SmartDams Champions leading the way in making dams work again for their communities | May 2023

Update 2 – WaterSmart Dams Grower Survey Summary | February 2023

Update 1 – Farmers urged to respond to WaterSmart Dams Survey | October 2022

Recent Fieldwork

Follow DPIRD Senior Principal Researcher Richard George and UWA Associate Professor Nik Callow on Twitter to keep up with their #smartdams fieldwork.

Get Involved

Add your details here to follow the project, stay informed on dam design updates, field days or book a chat with one of the project team.

If you are using innovative new technologies on your dam/catchment we would be interested in hearing from you and showcasing your dam in our project gallery, complete this form.

Growers and producers are also encouraged to complete the WaterSmart Dams Issues and Interest survey, sharing your on farm water storage hurdles as well as indicating your interest in WaterSmart technologies.


SmartDams Champions Gallery
This gallery showcases the growers hosting the WaterSmart demonstration sites. Find out how they are improving their dam infrastructure. 

Dam & Catchment Technology Gallery
This gallery gives an overview of the WaterSmart technology being implemented at the demonstration sites. Is there a solution to help improve your water security?

Why do dams fail?
Dam failures can be structural, hydraulic and hydrological or a combination of these and can be related to a series of events.

ABC ‘Country Hour’ project overview
‘…A WA-based research project called WaterSmart Dams, is determined to make dams great again…’

South Coast Climate Dashboard

Welcome to the South Coast Climate Dashboard, an essential guide for navigating the challenges and opportunities posed by climate change in the lower Great Southern region.

WA Climate Change Data
Rainfall in SW WA has been declining since the 1960’s. Find out more about this rainfall change and understand why farmers need to consider water strategies now for the future.

WaterSmart Evaluation Tool (WET)
*Currently under development by UWA ‘Centre for Water and Spatial Sciences’ team

Project Team

Related News

UWA Associate Professor Nik Callow said UWA welcomed the opportunity to partner with the GGA, grower groups and DPIRD, and to undertake work that would significantly benefit WA farmers.

“Knowledge and water planning tools are demanded by farmers who need their dams to work in all years, and they need to be able to make water investment decisions with confidence,” he said.

DPIRD Senior Principal Research Scientist Richard George said Wheatbelt producers had reported 25 to 100 per cent of their dams had failed from 2018 to 2020, impacting cropping and livestock operations and forcing the export of two million sheep from the region.

“Most dams were built to meet the needs of previous farming systems and smaller enterprises, and are based on rainfall and temperatures from decades past,” Dr George said.

“Modern farms require more reliable, higher quality and larger volumes of water – to service the needs of bigger, more complex cropping and livestock systems – and this project will help bridge that divide.”

GGA’s SW WA Hub Director Mark Holland said the work would be of interest to every farmer who had a dam.

Project Shortcuts


Enquiries to Daniel Kidd at GGA



Posted on

23 May 2022