Sustainable Management of Coastal Groundwater Resources

This project concluded 30 June 2012.


The aim of the Sustainable Management of Coastal Groundwater Resources project was to improve water management in coastal aquifers through the demonstration of an integrated approach to managing coastal groundwater availability and quality. The Macleay Coastal Sands Aquifer located in northern New South Wales was chosen as a case study to develop and implement a monitoring strategy that could be applied to similar high-value sand aquifer systems on the Australian coastline.

Geoscience Australia was a collaborative partner in the project, which also included the NSW Office of Water, Kempsey Shire Council, Ecoseal Developments Pty Ltd, GHD and Arche Consulting Pty Ltd. The project was funded by the National Water Commission.


Elevated view of a coastal beach.

The Macleay Coastal Sands,
northern NSW

  • To demonstrate an integrated approach for managing the availability and quality of coastal groundwater resources, as a strategy to prevent over-allocation due to rapid urban and/or intensive agricultural development
  • To combine socio-economic and state of the art groundwater and seawater intrusion modelling tools to support the long-term management of coastal sand aquifers.  These methodologies can be applied to similar coastal sand dune aquifers along the north coast of New South Wales and can help ensure that potential new groundwater sources are developed sustainably with minimal impact on groundwater dependent ecosystems
  • To produce a comprehensive monitoring data set on groundwater levels and water quality for robust analysis of coastal dune systems in northern NSW that will contribute to knowledge development on how to better manage fragile coastal  systems which are faced with rising demand
  • To integrate water quantity and water quality considerations with a risk management framework for evaluating sustainable extraction regimes for coastal groundwater systems and in particular, taking into consideration the risk of saline upconing and seawater intrusion
  • To contribute towards a sustainable extraction regime for the Macleay Coastal Sands Aquifer, particularly during peak competing demand periods and assessment of impacts on coastal groundwater dependent ecosystems
  • To facilitate the management of aquifers for long term sustainable use, provide pathways for minimising aquifer stress and to develop new opportunities for coastal groundwater development that is environmentally sustainable
  • To examine trade-offs between consumptive groundwater use and the requirements of dependent ecosystems in coastal regions by combining biophysical models and socio-economic analysis.

Project Outputs

Topic contact: Last updated: September 3, 2013