Australia’s major cities have long relied on large dams as their main source of water. These dams, including Warragamba, are household names in their own cities. Some cities are blessed with good quality catchment areas, most notably Sydney, while others, including Brisbane, have catchments compromised by agricultural pursuits and very little green space in their immediate hinterland. Outside the cities and country towns, rural Australia continues to get by on tank water, just as it has done for the past two centuries (Frost et al 2015).
Criss-crossed with creeks and rivers, the indigenous people of the region had no difficulty in accessing clean water. The infant European settlements of the area now known as the Gold Coast relied on tank water for drinking and the waterways for commercial quantities of water. A dam on Tallebudgera Creek was replaced in 1962 with the Little Nerang Dam. At the time, the Gold Coast’s population hovered around fifty thousand. Fifty years later it boasted a population of half a million, a tenfold increase.
The Gold Coast developed rapidly as a tourist resort in the 1950s and 1960s, with key Melbourne entrepreneurs, Stanley Korman and Bruce Small, introducing canal developments, based on the Florida model. Waterways, sun, surf and sand came to dominate how the Gold Coast promoted itself, not just to residents of Brisbane, bereft of surf beaches, but to the Sydney and Melbourne markets who could fly or drive (Davidson and Spearritt 2000, 161-162).