Sustainable management of groundwater extraction: An Australian perspective on current challenges

Peter G. Cook, Margaret Shanafield, Martin S. Andersen, Sarah Bourke, Ian Cartwright, Jamie Cleverly, Matthew Currell, Tanya M. Doody, Harald Hofmann, Rui Hugmann, Dylan J. Irvine, Anthony Jakeman, Jennifer McKay, Rebecca Nelson, Adrian D. Werner

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    Study region: Australia Study focus: Our incomplete knowledge of groundwater systems and processes imposes barriers in attempting to manage groundwater sustainably. Challenges also arise through complex institutional arrangements and decision-making processes, and the difficulty in involving stakeholders. In some areas, these difficulties have led to water table decline and impacts on groundwater users and groundwater-dependent ecosystems. However, there is potential to improve the sustainable use of groundwater resources through improvements in management practices. We discuss some of the challenges, and present survey results of research, government, and industry professionals across the groundwater sector in Australia. New hydrological insights for the region: The highest-ranked challenge identified in the survey was the difficulty in determining regional-scale volumetric water extraction limits. This is surprising given the criticism in the international literature of volumetric based approaches for groundwater management, and the decreased reliance on this approach in Australia and elsewhere in recent years. Other major challenges are the difficulty in determining and implementing maximum drawdown criteria for groundwater levels, determining water needs of ecosystems, and managing groundwater impacts on surface water. Notwithstanding these gaps in technical understanding and tools and a lack of resources for groundwater studies, improvements in stakeholder communication should enable more effective decision-making and improve compliance with regulations designed to protect groundwater and dependent ecosystems.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number101262
    Pages (from-to)1-19
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Hydrology: Regional Studies
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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