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

Cook, Peter G., Shanafield, Margaret, Andersen, Martin S., Bourke, Sarah, Cartwright, Ian, Cleverly, Jamie, Currell, Matthew, Doody, Tanya M., Hofmann, Harald, Hugmann, Rui, Irvine, Dylan J., Jakeman, Anthony, McKay, Jennifer, Nelson, Rebecca, and Werner, Adrian D. (2022) Sustainable management of groundwater extraction: An Australian perspective on current challenges. Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies, 44. 101262.

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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.

Item ID: 77577
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2214-5818
Keywords: Groundwater management, Implementation, Research gaps, Sustainability
Copyright Information: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (
Date Deposited: 28 Mar 2023 02:06
FoR Codes: 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3707 Hydrology > 370703 Groundwater hydrology @ 35%
30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3002 Agriculture, land and farm management > 300201 Agricultural hydrology @ 30%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410406 Natural resource management @ 35%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1803 Fresh, ground and surface water systems and management > 180305 Ground water quantification, allocation and impact of depletion @ 100%
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