Australia is the driest inhabited continent and the highest per capita user of water. As such, groundwater plays a critical role in national water security – both as an available water source in dry climates and during drought, as well as through its contribution to the Australian economy. In northern Australia, economic expansion has been limited in part by water availability: issues include limited surface dam sites; the seasonal nature of surface water; and high evaporation rates that rapidly deplete surface storages. Groundwater and water banking/aquifer storage may provide alternative water supply options, however there are major gaps in our knowledge of groundwater systems and resources.
The groundwater component of Geoscience Australia’s new $100.5 million Exploring for the Future Programme will address these knowledge gaps, and underpin future opportunities for irrigated agriculture, mineral and energy development, and community water supply. Over the four years of the programme, a suite of pre-competitive data and information will be released to inform development and investment decisions in key regions, in collaboration with state/territory government agencies. Central to these new projects is the integration of hydrogeological and geophysical data with a range of new technologies including satellite, airborne and ground sensors and super-computing research infrastructure to explore, assess, monitor, and manage groundwater systems. This approach enables cost-effective mapping, assessment, characterisation and monitoring of groundwater systems, while also providing high quality data to parameterise groundwater numerical models and quantitative assessments of the uncertainties and confidence levels in these predictions.