Project summary: 

The amount of water (flux) entering an aquifer as recharge is a critical factor in determining how water table levels change, the sustainable yields for groundwater extraction, and the impact of extractive industries on groundwater availability. However, the processes that govern this flux remain difficult to quantify, and are therefore considerable sources of uncertainty in modelling the groundwater balance and conducting impact assessments. Due to the geological complexity of the Surat and Bowen Basins, recharge can occur via multiple pathways along the basin margins, principally within the ‘intake beds’, where various geological strata come to surface outcrop, but other less direct pathways may also be important. The amount of recharge varies greatly both geographically across these different pathways due to physical and climatic factors.

This research seeks to improve understanding of these recharge pathways and the variation in rates (in both space and time) across the basin. The research has been designed as a three-stage project combining desk-top review, workshops, fieldwork, and modelling. Desk-top review, workshops and modelling (Phase 1) provides an update on our current understanding of recharge and identifies opportunities for targeted field measurements that can be conducted in Phase 2 that will reduce our uncertainty. Completed fieldwork (Phase 2) has established a monitoring network which will link the surface and subsurface hydrology, providing new knowledge of recharge processes including their transience. The recharge models, recharge estimates and guidelines developed in Phase 1 will be updated in Phase 3 to include this new knowledge.

Phase 2 of this project has now been competed and recommendations for phase 3 have been approved.

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Start date: 
November 2013
Completion date: 
October 2017
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Phase 1 – A review of scientific progress in understanding recharge processes in the Great Artesian Basin intake beds; recommendations regarding recharge estimation methodology; design of a field work program for Phase 2 (complete).

Phase 2 – Report outlining experimental outcomes from field programs and revised estimation recommendations (complete).

Phase 3 – Documentation of revised recharge estimates and models, finalised estimation recommendations and associated training program (in progress).


Stage 1 Recommendations based on existing knowledge and data: complete.

Stage 2 Field experiments and new process understanding: complete.

Stage 3 Multi-scale recharge estimation: October 2015 - June 2017.


The research team undertook field investigations and data analyses at three sites in the Surat Basin to collect new data to improve knowledge of recharge rates, processes and estimates.


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