Publisher's synopsis

The long-awaited history that will change the way Australians think about their country.

The Water Dreamers is the story of the settlement of Australia: of the scarcity of water and the need to fill an imagined silence with the sounds of civilisation. From the moment the First Fleeters stepped ashore, water determined progress. The Tank Stream that flowed through what is now the Sydney CBD provided fresh water until settlers and their livestock fouled it. Then water from a nearby swamp was piped into the growing settlement. When it ran dry sights were set further afield.

The Water Dreamers is an illuminating account of the ways people have imagined and interpreted Australia while struggling to understand this continent and striving to conquer its obstacles. It’s an environmental history and a cultural history with an unmistakable sense of how, today, we are part of that continuing story.


  • Winner 2010 Colin Roderick Award
  • Shortlisted 2010 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-fiction
  • Shortlisted 2010 Non-Fiction category Prime Minister’s Literary Awards