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Tapping the benefits of groundwater management

For local councils, understanding the way a groundwater system operates can save money and help safeguard against the effects of climate change and population growth.

This is according to hydrogeologist Gideon Steyl, who has worked with organisations including Whitsunday Regional Council (WRC) to develop groundwater management plans. 

“Councils need to start thinking about strategies and programs to align their current water supply network with possible climate change impacts,” Steyl said ahead of his presentation at the Australian Water Association’s North Queensland Regional Conference next month. 

“I think councils are realising that groundwater is an untapped, imperfectly correlated resource that can be developed in the future.”

From extreme weather events like Tropical Cyclone Debbie to periods of drought, Queensland’s Whitsunday region already faces its share of challenging conditions. This led WRC to look at possible risks to its water supply and how these could be addressed.

As a result, WRC has set up a structured groundwater monitoring program, which Steyl said has helped perfect its operations.

“They can monitor in real time what their resource is doing and optimise the way they take water from the resource,” he said.

By understanding the water level in an aquifer, a council can pump water at a time that will yield the maximum amount of water with the least energy consumption.

Steyl said this approach can lead to energy savings of 20% to 40%, which in turn saves money.

It’s also important to build the right infrastructure to convey groundwater to a treatment plant, where it can be distributed to the network.

“In the WRC program, by better understanding their bores and the way the groundwater system operates, they realised cost savings,” Steyl said.

“That’s why understanding your groundwater system in a more thorough way is so important – it allows you to target those programs that will give you maximum yield with the lowest cost implication.”

Gideon Steyl will be speaking at the AWA’s North Queensland Regional Conference, held from 14 to 15 August in Townsville. To learn more and to register, click here