Protecting water resources in Timor-Leste

24 May 2012

The livelihoods of Timor-Leste's almost 1.7 million people are heavily dependant on groundwater resources, making the nation particularly vulnerable to climate change.

Until recently, little was known about the sustainability of groundwater in this highly vulnerable developing country.

Over the past two years, a collaborative project between the Australian and Timorese Governments has been assessing the potential impact of climate change on groundwater resources.

The project has successfully built the capacity of Timor-Leste's water agencies to assess, monitor and manage groundwater in a changing climate by providing and implementing a monitoring framework.

"Climate change is a major threat to groundwater resources in Timor-Leste because of variations in rainfall and sea-water intrusion from rising sea levels," said Dr Luke Wallace, Groundwater Project Manager with Geoscience Australia.

"Working together to establish a monitoring process, the Timorese now have the capability to define the nation's existing groundwater resources and ascertain the potential for new water resources," he said.

The project includes the development of the first hydrogeological map of Timor-Leste that consistently identifies water types and locations at a national scale. The Timor-Leste Government will use the map to assist with the management of water extraction under increasingly variable climatic conditions. It will also provide a basis to calculate current use and sustainable resources for future needs.

"The hydrogeological map and accompanying framework will provide a foundation for future groundwater management in Timor-Leste and has the potential to be applied in other countries or regions", said Dr Wallace.

"Equipped with a better understanding of the resources they have, and their current usage, the Timor-Leste Government is now in a position to introduce a process to get the most out of the country's resources while providing a sustainable water future", said Dr Wallace.

The project was run by Geoscience Australia in partnership with the Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the Government of Timor-Leste’s National Directorate for Water Resource Management, with contributions from the CSIRO, the East Timor Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program (BESIK), and Charles Darwin University.

The research project was funded by the Australian Government under the Pacific Adaptation Strategy Assistance Program, through the International Climate Change Adaptation Initiative.

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