Water supply management on farms after fire

Page last updated: Monday, 10 January 2022 - 10:00am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Farm fires will often lead to contaminated surface-water supplies: ash and soil from burnt paddocks and bushland can be blown or washed into farm dams and provide nutrients for bacteria and algae.

This page gives information and links to options for preventing and treating contaminated water supplies.

Fires near water supplies will cause water quality problems

Fires near on-farm water supplies can cause several problems:

  • Ash and windblown debris can accumulate in the water making the water unattractive to livestock, and build up nutrients leading to algal blooms.
  • Loss of groundcover makes the catchment very susceptible to wind and water erosion: water erosion can move a lot of silt, debris and organic material into the dam, making the water unattractive to livestock, and possibly leading to toxic algal growth.
  • Silting of farm dams after fire and erosion can significantly reduce the dam's capacity to hold water.
  • Infrastructure for managing water supplies (pumps, pipes and surrounding fences) can be damaged and prevent early recovery from fire.

Treating and preventing dam contamination after fire

Details for treating contaminated water and for preventing contamination are on the contaminated farm dams page.

Make simple, temporary silt traps

A simple fence of coarse shade cloth or straw can prevent most contamination entering water supplies after a fire.

Read about one farmer's experience with this design.

In the longer term, make sure that all your dams have adequate silt traps.

Being prepared for fire

By planning and acting ahead of the fire season, many of the risks from fire can be reduced or avoided.

To protect water resources infrastructure, use steel fence posts, keep pumps and solar panels free of flammable material, and bury all reticulation pipes.

For more information see bushfire survival plans for landholders.

Contact information

Tim Overheu
+61 (0)8 9892 8533
Paul Findlater
+61 (0)8 9956 8535