When should I use sandbags?

Sandbags can be helpful if placed strategically before a flood event. They can help to reduce the amount of water entering a home.

However, sandbags are not waterproof, and they will not completely stop the water. Spending time before a flood lifting or removing furniture and other items may be more effective.

Go to the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services website for tips on using sandbags.

Where can I get sandbags from?

Empty sandbags and sand can be bought at major hardware stores, landscape suppliers and other retailers.  You can also make your own sandbags from garbage bags filled with soil. Council only supplies sandbags in some circumstances to protect homes.

Go to the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services website for tips on using sandbags.

Do sandbags create watertight seals?

No sandbags do not create a waterproof barrier. Water is still likely to enter your property or home.    When using sandbags, you need to consider their limitations.

How should I use sandbags?

Sandbag walls are not waterproof, and they will not completely stop the water. You can use plastic sheeting with sandbags to reduce the amount of water seeping through.

  • Cover drainage holes (e.g. toilet, shower, bath and floor drains) to stop the backflow of contaminated water.
  • Place across doorways.  The number of layers required will depend on the expected flood height. However, it is generally around two (2) sandbag rows high.
  • Blocking air vents between brickwork may also require sandbags. Small vents may be covered with waterproof tape or plastic.

Go to the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services website for tips on using sandbags.

What can I do instead of using sandbags?

There are several alternatives to traditional sandbags, which are detailed below.


  • Clearing or repairing existing drains
  • Use of temporary trenches or spoon drains
  • Absorbent flood bags / self-inflating sandbags – these are also available major hardware stores, landscape suppliers and other retailers.

Medium to long term

  • Avoid changing the ground level if you have an ‘identified overland flow path’. This is an area where stormwater or floodwater is likely to flow. There is a property layer on the council PD Online website if you need help identifying an overland flow path in your area.  Visit https://maps.ipswich.qld.gov.au/weave/planscheme.html (Select Ipswich Planning Scheme layer> Select planning scheme overlays>selected OV5 Flooding and Urban Catchment Flow)
  • Installation of drainage systems
  • Ensuring driveways and other paved surfaces have appropriate shapes and levels to direct flow away from housing.
  • Avoid planting trees with deep root systems near pits and pipes
  • Avoid enclosing areas underneath raised buildings which have been designed to allow water flow

What have we learnt from previous flood events?

There were many lessons learned in the 2011 floods, including the limitations of sandbags in protecting homes during a flood.

In 2011 many Ipswich households spent valuable flood preparation time sandbagging their homes and lifting items off the floor. However, homes and items were still inundated due to the height of the water. Afterwards, residents reported that they regretted sandbagging and should have spent time removing items from home instead.

A survey following a flood in 2013 found that those who had experienced the 2011 flood had changed their behaviour.

“Prepared sandbags and sandbagged the house - a waste of time.  Prepared things that I could pack things in if needed.  Was clear in my mind re what needed to be removed from the house and what could ultimately be replaced if it came to that.  HOWEVER - my judgement was wrong.  I only came to understand the impact and what was important afterwards.” (Kenmore, 2011 flood)

Source: Geoscience Australia (2016), Household experiences of flooding in Brisbane and Ipswich, Queensland

Ipswich City Council provides sandbags in strictly limited circumstances. There are other actions households can take to increase the flood resilience of their homes and/or protect property. (See ‘what can I do instead of using sandbags’).

Is there any research into the effectiveness of sandbags?

Yes - However, there has been limited research within Australia, in the United Kingdom, the Pitt Review into widespread sandbag use found:

  • “The Review was unable to obtain any significant evidence that sandbags were particularly effective during the 2007 summer floods in providing protection to households.”
  • It did note that “sandbags are still widely regarded as an important focus for community action, and they should not simply be withdrawn. The general provision of sandbags should be phased out in favour of better products…”
  • “Research by the Environmental Agency has suggested that, at best, sandbags offer a 40% chance of success in keeping water out. In many cases, when sandbags are laid by householders, rather than skilled workforce, this rate is much lower.”

When will Council supply sandbags?

Council may aid by providing sandbags based on forecasts made by the Bureau of Meteorology.  The table below provides guidance on Council’s approach.


Provision of sandbags

Short duration / intense bursts of rain / sustained light rain

Bureau of Meteorology describes the weather as heavy rain, wet weather, or severe storms that are unlikely to result in inundation to the essential living areas of properties within the City of Ipswich.

An example is a summer storm where the anticipated rainfall is relatively minor or intense short bursts of heavy rain are predicted.

Sandbags are the responsibility of the owner/occupier.  Council will not supply sandbags.

Sustained and intense rain with widespread flooding within the City of Ipswich

Events may include heavy rain, wet weather or severe storms that are likely to result in floor-level inundation of properties within the City of Ipswich.  Examples include the effects of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald, 2011 floods, 2022 floods.

Businesses and residents can collect sandbags from one of the nominated locations. Individuals may be required to fill their own sandbags.

Go to the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services website for tips on using sandbags.

How will Council notify residents of the availability and where to collect sandbags?

Council will post updates on Facebook.com/ipswichcitycouncil and the Disaster Dashboard disaster.ipswich.qld.gov.au.

Does Council maintain a list of sandbag providers?

Council does not list or endorse suppliers.  Sandbags can be purchased at major hardware stores, landscape suppliers and other retailers.

Can I get sandbags from the SES?

Council and the Ipswich City SES Unit work in partnership, and our arrangements for the supply of sandbags is the same for general use.  The SES also use sandbags for other purposes, such as weights.  Council makes sand available to SES this purpose.