Understanding groundwater resources

Last updated:7 June 2023

Groundwater resources support significant urban and rural communities around Australia. A wide variety of agricultural enterprises and many non-agricultural industries also use vast amounts of groundwater. For many regional areas, particularly in arid and semi-arid Australia, it is often the only reliable source of water supporting communities and economic activity.

Our knowledge of groundwater systems varies across Australia. Monitoring, regulation and management of groundwater resources is not as rigorous as it is for surface water. In some parts of the country, the current rate of groundwater extraction is depleting the resource faster than it is being recharged. The use of groundwater in such an unsustainable manner may lead to long-term problems, especially for the communities, enterprises and ecosystems which rely upon such groundwater resources. Therefore, understanding how groundwater systems operate and can be better managed is vital for our national interest and future prosperity.

A wide range of projects are being undertaken through the $82 million National Groundwater Action Plan, initiated by the National Water Commission in 2007, and the Australian Government's framework Water for the Future. These projects will improve our knowledge and understanding of groundwater and position us to manage Australia's groundwater resources in a sustainable manner.

Groundwater processes - The recharge and discharge process of groundwater systems.

Groundwater assessment tools - A variety of tools are used to assess the nature and characteristics of groundwater resources.

Groundwater-surface water connectivity - Connectivity, or the direction and magnitude of flow between water resources located above and below ground, impacts groundwater resources. Groundwater quality - The importance of groundwater quality, and major threats to this quality.

Seawater intrusion - Seawater can encroach on coastal groundwater resources causing salinisation, a major environmental threat that requires management.

Groundwater dependent ecosystems - Ecosystems reliant on groundwater for some or all of their water requirements.

Groundwater and landscape interactions - Problems associated with the interaction of groundwater with landscapes, and the management of these issues.