The Angas-Bremer (AB) irrigation district (South Australia) is located at the lower end of the Murray-Darling Basin. It is economically supported by a thriving high-quality wine industry that relies on water availability for irrigation. This region is especially vulnerable to water crises because its water security depends on upstream management practices. Groundwater pumping in AB started in the 1950s, which lead to declining groundwater levels and rising groundwater salinities. AB faced two major groundwater crises, in the late 1970s and early 2000s (Millennium Drought), which drove the community to embrace innovative water-management approaches to survive. These approaches have been described as highly-successful and nation-leading, making the community more resilient to future water shortages. AB offers examples of integrated groundwater management (IGM) concepts, such as co-management and collective action (which will be addressed in a concurrent presentation), and hydro-illogical cycle and socio-hydrogeology, which are the focus of this study.
We aim to examine the innovative nature and success of AB’s example of community-driven IGM, including breaking the hydro-illogical cycle, and successful application of socio-hydrogeology. We collected and analyzed biophysical data from the 1950s to 2015, including groundwater pumping, artificial recharge, surface water usage and rainfall. These data were integrated with a chronology of groundwater management practices and interaction between government agencies and local irrigators. From this we discuss the temporal evolution of the interaction between stakeholders – socio-hydrogeology. We show periods in which the hydro-illogical cycle was broken, but also periods that seem to show a regression back to this illogical approach to water-related issues.
From this we draw lessons for real-world IGM, the expansion of socio-hydrogeology as a discipline and how to break the hydro-illogical cycle in practice. This will benefit those aiming at resolving groundwater management problems considering the multi-disciplinary nature and different dimensions of complex socio-ecological systems.