Scientists to explore water resources beneath Adelaide

Strategic Professor of Hydro(geo)logy Okke Batelaan

Most Adelaide residents are acutely aware that they live in the driest state on the driest inhabited continent, and many still remember water restrictions during the recent Millennium Drought.

However, substantial quantities of water lie beneath Adelaide, which can be used more effectively by updating our knowledge about this valuable resource.

A group of South Australia’s leading groundwater scientists is embarking on a $3 million, two-year project to map the aquifers beneath Adelaide to provide a comprehensive understanding of the quantity and quality of water within the aquifers. It will also assess the likely impacts of a changing climate and increasing population, and inform future water planning.

The Goyder Institute for Water Research project, to be conducted by leading scientists from Flinders University and CSIRO, will be the first comprehensive study for over 10 years.

Adelaide residents have long made use of groundwater, historically by drawing water from backyard bores. Today, groundwater is an important contributor to South Australia’s economy. A recent study commissioned by the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training showed that groundwater helps the nation earn $34 billion a year. Locally, groundwater supports major industries and local councils, reducing demand on Adelaide’s reticulated water supply.

While construction of the Adelaide desalination plant provides security of tap water during periods of drought, the local manufacturing industry and many market gardeners in the northern suburbs rely on a steady supply of groundwater from deep aquifers to operate.

“These groundwater resources are crucial for Adelaide’s continued economic development,” Flinders University Strategic Professor of Hydro(geo)logy Okke Batelaan, the project leader, said.

“We need to improve our knowledge of how much water flows from the Hills to the plains and how much water moves between the different aquifers,” he said.

“We don’t know how much flows out to sea and how much water is fresh and how much is saline. Now is the time for us to learn more about our groundwater resources.

“This will help us to use our groundwater sustainably and ensure the continuing viability of our groundwater-dependent industries.

“We already artificially pump water underground to store it from winter to summer. Once we know more about the subsurface and how these systems work, we could potentially use them for storing large volumes of recycled stormwater, complementing other water sources, like the Murray.”

Research  will be conducted in collaboration with the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, and is supported by the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training.

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