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The challenge

Knowing water resources

Secure water supply underpins Australia's future developments, whether urban, agricultural or resources and energy based.

Secure water supply underpins Australia's future developments, whether urban, agricultural or resources and energy based. ©  CSIRO, Mat Gilfedder

Groundwater is an essential resource, particularly where surface water resources are fully allocated, or when they are limited during droughts. Identification of new groundwater resources and judicious management of existing resources are a priority for Australia's growth.

Our response

New methods and tools

We are developing multiscale and multidisciplinary approaches for characterising groundwater resources at a regional scale. Our methods range from use of remote sensing and geophysical techniques, to machine learning methods, as well as analytical and numerical modelling. These are supported by detailed field-based measurements and environmental tracer analysis.

Our research develops tools and frameworks to facilitate smart data acquisition – identifying both the most appropriate data type and the optimal locations for sampling. The techniques can be used to develop effective new monitoring networks or to improve existing monitoring programs. They help to ensure that the maximum knowledge gain is obtained from a fixed field campaign budget.

We are building and applying methods for best-practice model uncertainty analysis, sensitivity analysis and risk assessment techniques. Our science increases confidence in the predictions from groundwater models by assessing the impacts of model assumptions, conceptualisation and parameterisation on model results.

The engagement

We work alongside partners such as State and Federal water management jurisdictions, stakeholders and water users, universities, hydrological consultants, resource and energy companies, irrigation and agricultural consortiums and environmental planners to deliver cutting edge science that is relevant to the industry's science requirements.

We now understand the potential yields and system interactions of target groundwater resources that underpin our future development.

The results

Applying the science

Our research has resulted in a better understanding of groundwater resources, and the approaches we have developed are being applied throughout Australia for many purposes, including sustainable management of aquifers, assessing coal seam gas impacts, monitoring of managed aquifer recharge schemes and characterisation of potential groundwater resources in Northern Australia.

Decision makers who are tasked with the equitable allocation of water are able to make use of the improved understanding of groundwater system behaviour resulting from our model uncertainty analysis.

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