Groundwater and Rivers

Oranje Creativeres-page, Research Capabilities

Groundwater and rivers are often connected, and groundwater can sustain river flow during periods without rainfall. Groundwater pumping can also reduce river flow. However, predicting how pumping will affect rivers requires a detailed understanding of the nature of the connection between the river and the groundwater system. NCGRT researchers have been working in Australia and internationally to understand the connection between surface water bodies and groundwater systems. This includes studies of groundwater recharge from ephemeral rivers in central Australia, factors governing flow duration in intermittent streams in South Australia and understanding the sources of groundwater flowing into perennial rivers across eastern Australia.

Our researchers have expertise in measurement and modelling of the interaction between groundwater and rivers. We have expertise in measurement and interpretation of geochemical and isotopic tracers for quantifying the flow of groundwater to rivers, and the leakage of rivers into the underlying groundwater. We also have expertise in using temperature and geophysical methods for identifying hotspots of surface water – groundwater interaction. NCGRT researchers had been at the forefront of modelling the interaction between groundwater and surface water bodies (lakes, rivers, and the ocean), and modelling the link between climate and river flows, particularly for ephemeral and intermittent streams. We also have expertise in understanding legal frameworks and impediments to conjunctive surface water – groundwater interaction, and expertise in policy development and analysis.

Selected Publications

Bourke SA, Shanafield M, Hedley P, Chapman S and Dogramaci S (2023) A hydrological framework for persistent pools along non-perennial rivers. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 27, 809-836.

Vu HM, Shanafield M and Batelaan O (2018) Flux dynamics at the groundwater-surface water interface in a tropical catchment. Limnologica, 68, 36-45.

Rau GC, Halloran LJSS, Cuthbert MO, Andersen MS, Acworth RI, and Tellam JH (2017) Characterising the dynamics of surface water-groundwater interactions in intermittent and ephemeral streams using streambed thermal signatures. Advances in Water Resources, 107, 354-369.

Cuthbert MO, Acworth RI, Andersen MS, Larsen J, McCallum A, Rau GC, and Tellam JH (2016) Understanding and quantifying focused, indirect groundwater recharge from ephemeral streams using water table fluctuations. Water Resources Research, 52, 827-840.

Cook PG (2015) Quantifying river gain and loss at regional scales. Journal of Hydrology, 532, 102-121.

Shanafield M and Cook PG (2014) Transmission losses, infiltration and groundwater recharge through ephemeral and intermittent streambeds: A review of applied methods. Journal of Hydrology, 511, 518-529.

McCallum AM, Andersen MS, Giambastiani BMS, Kelly BFJ and Acworth RI (2013) River-aquifer interactions in a semi-arid environment stressed by groundwater abstraction. Hydrological Processes, 27, 1072-1085.