Characterising Groundwater Systems

Oranje Creativeres-page, Research Capabilities

There are certain key datasets that are required to understand all groundwater systems. These include hydraulic conductivity, transmissivity and storage coefficients, hydraulic head distributions (including head gradients between aquifer layers, groundwater flow directions and velocities, rates and locations of recharge and discharge, and baseline salinity and water chemistry. Yet some of these characteristics can be difficult to quantify, particularly in areas of complex geology where rocks are folded and faulted rocks and flow can predominantly occur through fractures, or where wells are uncased or have long intake zones.

NCGRT researchers have worked on groundwater characterisation projects in most Australian States and Territories, in environments from the wet topics to the arid zone. As well as studies in the large sedimentary aquifers of the Great Artesian Basin and the Murray Basin, we have worked on highly complex groundwater systems associated with fractured and folded hard rocks. This has included major projects to understand the influence of faults and dykes on groundwater flow in both urban and mining environments.

NCGRT researchers have expertise in most areas of aquifer characterisation, including the use of environmental tracers to identify sources of groundwater recharge and quantify flow rates; artificial tracers for identifying preferential flowpaths in heterogeneous or fractured geological environments; and surface and downhole geophysics for understanding heterogeneity and mapping flow zones.

Selected Publications

Irvine DJ, and Cartwright I (2022) CMBEAR: Python-Based Recharge Estimator Using the Chloride Mass Balance Method in Australia. Groundwater, 60, 418-425.

Miraldo Ordens C, McIntyre N, Underschultz JR, Ransley T, Moore C, and Mallants D (2020) Preface: Advances in hydrogeologic understanding of Australia’s Great Artesian Basin. Hydrogeology Journal, 28, 1-11.

Rau GC, Cuthbert MO, Post VEA, Schweizer D, Acworth RI, Andersen MS, Blum P, Carrara E, Rasmussen TC, and Ge S (2020) Future-proofing hydrogeology by revising groundwater monitoring practice. Hydrogeology Journal, 28, 2963-2969.

Rau GC, Post VEA, Shanafield MA, Krekeler T, Banks EW, and Blum P (2019) Error in hydraulic head and gradient time-series measurements: a quantitative appraisal. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 23, 3603-3629.

McMillan TC, Rau GC, Timms WA, and Andersen MS (2019) Utilizing the impact of Earth and atmospheric tides on groundwater systems: A review reveals the future potential. Reviews of Geophysics, 57, 281-315.

Hofmann H, and Cartwright I (2013) Using hydrogeochemistry to understand inter-aquifer mixing in the on-shore part of the Gippsland Basin, southeast Australia. Applied Geochemistry, 33, 84-103.