CSIRO is providing scientific advice to the Norfolk Island community, Norfolk Island Regional Council and Emergency Management Norfolk Island to help them make decisions on how to further their water resilience under a changing climate and projected extended dry spells.

The Project will be undertaken in conjunction with the local community, drawing on their deep and unparalleled understanding of Norfolk Island and its water resources.

Why is CSIRO undertaking an assessment on Norfolk?

Since the 1970s there has been a notable reduction in rainfall over Norfolk Island. This has been most obvious during spring, where 23 of the last 25 years have seen rainfall below the long-term mean. Climate models project that Norfolk Island’s winter and spring will continue to be drier in the future. Norfolk Islanders have endured numerous dry periods in the past but there is now strong evidence that the frequency and severity of dry periods have been and will continue to increase. Annual and seasonal temperatures for Norfolk Island are also projected to increase into the future. Seemingly small long term reductions in rainfall can result in large reductions in groundwater recharge and runoff.

In southern Australia similar changes have resulted in significant challenges to water management authorities, in many cases requiring upgrades to water storage and supply infrastructure in order to reliability meet current and future projected demands. 

While the impact of water stress can be wide and far reaching, the consequences of completely running out of water could be catastrophic in a community as remote as Norfolk Island. By arming ourselves with knowledge it is possible to better manage risk and minimise harmful future impacts.

The information provided by the project can be used to help inform the Norfolk Island community, Norfolk Island Regional Council and Emergency Management Norfolk Island make decisions on how to further their resilience under a changing climate and projected extended dry spells, and on how the Australian Government can best support these efforts.

Importantly CSIRO will provide scientific input but not be advocating for a particular approach. Nor will CSIRO seek to replace any planning processes, or recommend changes to existing plans or processes, or put any pressure on residents to monitor and manage their own water stores.

Assessment aims

CSIRO's project will build upon the responses provided to the recent questionnaire circulated by the Norfolk Island Regional Council, existing studies and local knowledge to provide a contemporary understanding of the water resources of Norfolk Island and the opportunities to increase water security.

As part of this project CSIRO will undertake a program of data collection and field measurements. These will include measurements of water infiltrating into the soil, surface runoff, groundwater storage and water use by vegetation and a selection of households. A lack of hydrological data on Norfolk Island means anecdotal information and records, such as bore drilling logs, held by members of the community will be vital to the success of the project.

Project deliverables

Specifically the project seeks to:

  • implement a hydrological measurement and monitoring program on Norfolk Island
  • enhance the capacity of the community and Council to manage their water resources
  • provide information to help the Emergency Management Norfolk Island committee appropriately respond to the risk of a water emergency
  • undertake a prefeasibility analysis to assess water source and storage options for increasing the resilience of existing water supplies and the potential for providing redundancy in supply.

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