Assessing seawater intrusion risks to coastal groundwater regions

08 August 2012

A report to be released today by the National Water Commission outlines the first-ever national-scale assessment of the vulnerability of Australia’s coastal aquifers to seawater intrusion.

The assessment indicates that some coastal aquifers in all Australian states and the Northern Territory are potentially at risk, and may become more vulnerable due to increased groundwater resource demands, recharge changes, and sea-level rise associated with climate change.

Geoscience Australia’s groundwater and environment scientist Dr Baskaran Sundaram said that many of the most vulnerable resources were in locations with high population densities or where there was intensive use of groundwater for agriculture or industry.

“Fresh groundwater stored in coastal aquifers constitutes an important resource for urban and rural residents as well as industrial and agricultural activities.

“More than 85 per cent of Australians live within 50 km of the coast, and for many growing coastal cities and towns, groundwater is often an important water supply.

The National Water Commission funded this $1.8 million study to improve awareness of this issue and inform national, state and regional planning and management strategies.

The research was carried out by Geoscience Australia and the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, in collaboration with state and territory water agencies.

The report identifies several opportunities to progress and develop effective resource management and protection of Australia’s coastal aquifers through additional monitoring, research, stakeholder education and communication.

Dr Sundaram said, “The vulnerability of coastal aquifers to seawater intrusion will vary over time and it is important that monitoring regimes are maintained to ensure early identification and management of the phenomenon around Australia’s coastline,” he said.

Dr Sundaram and Dr Adrian Werner will be presenting findings from the National Scale Vulnerability Assessment of Seawater Intrusion Project at the 34th International Geological Congress in Brisbane on 10 August 2012.

The Waterlines report is available under the publications section on the National Commission website.

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact: Geoscience Australia 24 hour Media Hotline 1800 882 035.

Topic contact: Last updated: October 4, 2013