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Securing Australia’s water resources

Objective

Help drive optimal and sustainable use of Australia’s groundwater resources.

Role

To achieve this objective, Geoscience Australia informs the understanding of the location, quantity, quality and sustainable use of Australia’s groundwater resources and surface water systems.

Table 4: Strategic priority: Securing Australia’s water resources—performance

Evaluating Australia’s Groundwater Systems

Program deliverable1

Result

Provide authoritative, independent information and advice to the Australian Government and other stakeholders on groundwater resources, processes and impacts

Geoscience Australia provided independent technical advice on groundwater to the Department of the Environment and Energy and the Department of Industry,

Innovation and Science on time and within budget. In particular, Geoscience Australia:

  • collaborated with CSIRO to deliver technical reports to the Department of the Environment and Energy and the Queensland Department of Environment and Science in relation to the Carmichael coal mine project, to inform research and management plans and regulatory decision-making
  • provided specific technical commentary to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science in relation to the Ranger uranium mine closure under the Atomic Energy Act 1953
  • provided technical commentary to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science on decisions in relation to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, including:
  • 14 coal and coal seam gas referrals
  • four coal and coal seam gas approval decisions and conditions
  • one uranium approval decision and condition
  • three other requests related to the Act
  • three post-approval management plan requests.

Deliver stage reports to the Department of the Environment and Energy on the Geological and Bioregional Assessment Program

Geoscience Australia contributed to the successful delivery of two program milestones, one relating to the program’s baseline analysis phase (Stage 2) and the other involving the impact assessment phase (Stage 3).

For the Stage 2 milestone, Geoscience Australia contributed geological and hydrogeological data and expertise to the synthesis and technical reports in three priority areas, namely the Cooper, Isa and Beetaloo regions. The reports will be published in 2019–20.

For the Stage 3 milestone, a project agreement was signed by all project partners, and Geoscience Australia contributed to a progress report on Stage 3 activity

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

Key performance indicator1

Target

2018–19 result

Requests for groundwater resource management advice under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 responded to within agreed timeframes

95%

100%

All advice requested under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 provided within agreed timeframes.

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

Groundwater and Surface Water Innovation

Program deliverable1

Result

Develop new workflows to integrate and analyse data in a high performance computing environment

Geoscience Australia is leading global efforts on workflow transformation through the WaterSHED Initiative, a program of research to transform groundwater systems mapping and characterisation workflows. The initiative has achieved sign-on from 36 agencies, universities and private sector businesses, and will be developed as a Group on Earth Observations Community Activity in 2019–20.

New workflows on the National Computational Infrastructure were developed for airborne electromagnetic inversion comparisons, surface nuclear magnetic resonance data processing and inversion, and the development of Jupyter notebooks for automated layer-boundary detection.

New structural mapping and characterisation and fault zone hydrogeology workflows that integrate data from many sources have been developed and tested.

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

Analysis of performance

Australia is the driest inhabited continent, which makes water use and management a key challenge. In many parts of Australia, groundwater underpins agriculture, the environment, minerals and energy resource development, and the wellbeing of regional communities.

Geoscience Australia provides authoritative and independent groundwater advice to the Australian Government to support decision-making and policy development. The Department of the Environment and Energy and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science depend on the timely information and advice provided by Geoscience Australia to support the responsible governance and management of groundwater resources.

In 2018–19, Geoscience Australia provided the chain of scientific information to inform sustainable management of groundwater resources. This ranged from baseline assessments such as those provided by the Geological and Bioregional Assessment Program to advice provided in support of regulatory and compliance activities under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Atomic Energy Act 1953.

Additionally, Geoscience Australia developed and contributed to the efficacy of groundwater assessments through new integrative methods and technologies. This included nuclear magnetic resonance approaches to replace drilling, and refinements in the application of airborne electromagnetic methods. The new approaches have helped to inform new agricultural developments in northwestern Australia.