Australia: Digging Deep to Study/Understand Human Impact

The image to the right is called The Great Artesian Basin (GAB). It is an underground aquifer covering nearly 25 per cent of Australia.

“Although Australia is one of the driest countries in the world, its groundwater has been “neglected, undervalued and poorly understood. Beneath the red and black dirt that covers much of Australia – located in the second driest continent on the planet – lies vast reserves of underground water, the secrets of which researchers are hoping to unlock.

In a previous post: Mammoth Cave – the “Big Canary” of Aquifer Health, I wrote how Dr. Chris Groves, Director of the Hoffman Institute Research Center for Environmental Studies was trying to get a firsthand view of just how surface river water is contaminating the purest water sources on our planet with his studies of Mammoth Cave (US).

Congratulations are now given to a research team from Australia’s National Centre for Groundwater Research & Training (NCGRT) for undertaking a major project to better understand the implications of human contamination to these vast underground reservoirs of freshwater. Details will be found in this Water World issue: Predicting Future Aquifer Behaviour Down Under in Australia.

“Researchers have identified several key research focuses and consider this a high priority given that the lack of knowledge of the moisture content, storage, hydraulic conductivity and water quality of the many aquitards in Australia is a major threat to groundwater resource security. Over very long time scales, the diffusional losses evident in many aquitards mean that they also play a vital role in aquifer water quality.”

There is additional study being given to the aquifer reserves in Western Australia. The article: Assessing the suitability of Managed Aquifer Recharge for Perth’s Coastal Aquifer will highlight the issue.

“Groundwater levels are falling under about 40 per cent of Perth and there is currently over A$500 million of capital assets relying on this resource. Of particular concern are coastal aquifers where seawater intrusion may become a problem in the next five or so years.

The limestone of Perth’s coastal aquifer is karstic and poorly understood in terms of its geohydrology and nutrient attenuation properties. The coastal strip also contains wastewater treatment plants that discharge 100 gigaliters per annum of treated effluent into the Indian Ocean.”

In another previous post: The Oceans Are Coming, I discussed the impact of saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers.

As one of the planet’s driest continents, Australia is very sensitive to its freshwater reserves. These studies are important not just to Australians, but to the world. Maybe the Aussies will be kind enough to share the results. What other countries do with those results is often the bigger uncertainty.


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