Groundbreaking research that could help Australia avoid the costly mistakes of the past in relation to water management will be the focus of a new $30 million Centre for Groundwater Research and Training led by Flinders University.
The Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, funded by the Australian Research Council and National Water Commission for the next five years, will tap the knowledge and experience of the country’s leading water experts in 12 universities, the CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, and numerous other water industry as well as Federal and State Government agencies. Additional direct funding is being provided by the SA and NSW State Governments and other partners.
Flinders hydrogeologist and Centre Director, Professor Craig Simmons, said the Centre – announced today by the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong – would make a major contribution towards understanding Australia’s groundwater systems and underpinning the decision-making required to ensure the sustainability of an important national resource.
“Underground water systems provide more than 30 per cent of Australia’s consumption but these vital water flows from bores, wells and springs are often referred to as a ‘forgotten resource’ because we know so little about them,” Professor Simmons said today.
“If the current drought patterns continue we will become ever more reliant on groundwater. The potential negative impact to Australia’s economy of the loss or mismanagement of groundwater would be measured in billions of dollars,” he said.
Research projects to be undertaken by the Centre will extend from gaining an understanding of the geology of aquifers, to groundwater flows, water quality, recharge and discharge from aquifers, and the interaction between groundwater and rivers, lakes, vegetation and oceans.
“Unless we understand how groundwater links with vital ecosystems and climate today, predictions of how groundwater will respond to future climate and landscape changes cannot be made,” Professor Simmons said.
“A major role for the Centre will be to train the scientists required to ensure we make sound decisions in the future for the effective management of our groundwater resources. The Centre is a major investment in human capital and will directly support research by a large number of new postdoctoral fellows, PhD students and honours students,” he said.
“The investment in groundwater training afforded by the new Centre is unprecedented in Australia. It is an extraordinary opportunity which has the potential to make a major impact in groundwater research, training and management.”
Flinders Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Barber, said that in the face of extended drought and climate change, the Centre was a response to the urgent need to better understand Australia’s groundwater resources.
“Flinders has an outstanding record of internationally recognised expertise in groundwater research, and is well placed to lead and co-ordinate the national effort to improve our knowledge of groundwater,” Professor Barber said.
“Part of this improvement will be research-based in the short term but Australia’s capacity to undertake further research in years to come will be boosted by the Centre’s training of the next generation of groundwater specialists and, most importantly, by the proactive transmission of that research to practical outcomes,” he said.
“Another key feature of this initiative is the strong collaboration between the Federal and State Governments, National Water Commission, universities and the private sector. This cooperation will ensure that we maximise the use of all available groundwater infrastructure and facilities including field sites, analytical