Using advanced science to help facilitate sustainable and resilient groundwater management in Australia for manageable environmental effects and greater socio-economic benefits over the long-term

The challenge

Increasing complexity in groundwater resources management

Stakeholders across Australia need clear, transparent, scientifically tenable tools that allow efficient and socially-accepted decisions to be made at various stages of the water resource management process. This encompasses a total lifecycle management including an initial planning stage, resources and impacts assessment, operation stage - which requires effective resource and impacts management - and decommissioning (e.g. post-closure in mining or nuclear projects).

Groundwater resources management is ever increasing in complexity. There is a need to integrate the coupling between surface water and groundwater, resources availability, quality and conjunctive use and respond to multiple stressors with cumulative effects (e.g. water extraction for industrial developments superimposed onto a climate change and increasing climatic extremes and variability as well as land-use change). Seeking optimal solutions is further complicated by the presence of a growing number of stakeholders with competing and often conflicting demands and expectations. This requires a complex and scientifically rigorous approach to facilitate optimal, transparent and socially accepted risk-based decisions and actions.

Our response

Developing capability to support decision making processes

We provide scientifically sound methods and tools that support decision making processes in groundwater management. We aim for a transformational change with regard to methods for groundwater characterisation, monitoring and modelling. This is largely driven by a unique suite of available group/program capabilities and expertise, supported by adoption of emerging technologies ensuring a truly next generation approach to ever changing groundwater management challenges.

Groundwater use for irrigation. Harvey, Western Australia  ©Anne McKenzie

We are developing products which inform water managers about the main constraints for planning and implementing groundwater management (e.g. groundwater dependency of ecosystems, social expectation and engagement, climate change) and associated risks for groundwater resource development.

Physically-based models are central to the underpinning of environmental management and land and water allocation decisions, by linking cause and effect in complex aquifer systems. We are developing groundwater decision support models, which fulfil a number of essential roles:

  • scenario testing or optimisation to identify management solutions that avoid an undesirable outcome (e.g. water shortage, non-potable supply etc.)
  • optimisation of monitoring networks, identifying cost-effective data acquisition and best monitoring sentinels for early warnings signs of environmental impacts, and
  • informing and engaging stakeholders and facilitating public debate.

Some decision support models are developed as a closed-loop operational management system, where new data is fed directly into the models allowing continual improvement in the operational management reliability (data assimilation techniques).

We are also working to increase resilience in the face of a potential reduction in available water resources through artificially enhancing recharge replenishment (Managed Aquifer Recharge).

We are developing a unique capability in evaluating effectiveness of groundwater management actions, including for MAR, by designing monitoring programs based on remotely sensed data, machine learning and data worth analysis.

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We partner with small and large companies, government and industry in Australia and around the world.

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