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The challenge

Stress on renewable groundwater resources is compounded by a changing climate

Stresses on groundwater systems are related to the annual variability of recharge, cycles of user demands, and cumulative effects of domestic and industrial expansion. The water manager needs to balance demands against resource availability and services provided to the environment. To manage a groundwater system for long term sustainability you need to be able to quantify how climate variability and change will impact on recharge and demand. Water managers need to take into account plausible changes due to climate variation and change when they set or revise groundwater extraction limits.

©  Mat Gilfedder

Our response

Quantification of future changes and tools to manage them

Groundwater recharge changes due to projected climate change have been modelled across the Australian continent and in greater detail at the regional scale for the Murray- Darling Basin, tropical northern Australia, south-west Western Australia, Tasmania, Pilbara, Great Artesian Basin, and the Flinders and Gilbert River catchments in north-west Queensland. The research has identified which areas are most sensitive to a changing climate in terms of their annual recharge variability, and which aquifers will see the largest reduction in renewable groundwater resources.

We are developing risk-based adaptive groundwater management tools that account for both changes in year-to-year variability in renewable groundwater resources, and the longer-term impacts from decadal trends in climate change.

The results

Informed adaptation to climate change

The engagement

We have partnered with State agencies (e.g. departments of water, the environment, planning) as well as groundwater users (e.g. mining industry) and are engaging overseas (e.g. Chile). Our regional assessments currently inform water planning and sharing across Australia.

The impact

Water managers make better informed decisions. They incorporate our quantitative assessments of groundwater changes due to climate change in their plans so as to adapt to our changing climate. They are developing robust adaptive management approaches and, together with on-going collaboration, this is ensuring they are using the best available estimates of how climate change will impact the availability of groundwater resources.

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