Oral Presentation Australasian Groundwater Conference 2017

How hydrogeologists can contribute to effective stakeholder engagement in groundwater resource management (394)

Daniel Pierce 1
  1. Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia

There is a growing movement in South Australia, as with many other jurisdictions, for greater community involvement in the development of public policy, including in the area of water resource management. In the development and periodic updating of water allocation plans for each of the State’s priority water resources, the nature of this involvement has moved away from the arrangement where government agencies, drawing on scientific advice, draft the rules, announce them to the community and then end up defending them in the ensuing consultations.

Recent experience with the Barossa Prescribed Water Resources Area illustrates how hydrogeologists can assist in opening up parts of the water planning process to be more participatory. A third iteration of the water plan for this resource is seeing, for the first time, community involvement in the determining volumes available for extraction, a determination, which was previously made solely by water planners on the advice of hydrogeologists.Hydrogeologists have made this possible by defining suitable management areas, and using numerical modelling to link the resource condition in each area to the impacts on users. Using this information, stakeholders are then engaged to determine the level of risk to the users dependent on the resource that they think is unacceptable, which then affects how much water is available for use.

In management areas where the resource is more vulnerable to short term changes in its condition, the information is also being used to develop a more responsive management regime where allocations can vary on an annual basis. As the State’s water resources face the uncertainties of climate change and increased demand due to economic pressures, hydrogeologists are in a position to facilitate greater public participation in groundwater management using approaches such as these. 

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