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Australia is often said to be the driest inhabited continent on Earth, but that's only because of its low rainfall.
In fact, we have massive reserves of the most precious of natural resources right beneath our feet in our groundwater.
Bore water, for example, from the Great Artesian Basin made it possible to open up vast inland areas for grazing livestock. Natural springs provide the millions of bottles of mineral water we consume every year.
Groundwater makes it possible to grow many of our crops and pastures. And we're looking increasingly to aquifers to provide drinking water for our growing towns and cities.
Groundwater is found in the voids between sediment grains in the subsurface. It can flow slowly like a river through aquifers or pool in great underground "lakes". Although hidden from view it is intimately connected with the rivers, streams, creeks, ponds, lakes and wetlands we can see above ground.
So, effective water management must consider surface water and groundwater as "connected" - a single resource.
Australia has doubled its groundwater use in recent decades. It now makes up more than one-fifth of all the water we harvest. Yet we don't know enough about the many and complex interactions between groundwater and surface water or how this knowledge can be applied to controversial issues such as coal seam gas development and water allocations in the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
In many cases, we're still treating them as if they were separate resources and we know far too little about how to manage them sustainably.
The University of New South Wales Connected Waters Initiative Research Centre aims to help fill this critical gap in our knowledge through research, teaching and public education. You can read our vision and mission statements here, and our annual report here.
The CWI is jointly supported by the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Engineering in recognition of the vital roles that both knowledge and technology can play in better understanding and managing Australia's water resources. Our multidiscipinary expertise includes staff from the Schools of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences; Mining Engineering; and Law.
The CWI manages Australia's groundwater infrastructure program, the NCRIS Groundwater Infastructure, and CWI staff play leading roles in Australia's groundwater centre, the Australian Research Council and National Water Commission funded National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT).
This site is a window into the UNSW Connected Waters Initiative Research Centre and was initially developed thanks to the generosity of our sponsor, Mr Gary Johnston, CEO of Jaycar Electronics.
Dr Wendy Timms was recently appointed to the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC).
Contributions from the CWI team feature in a new open access book that is among the first to cover hydrogeology, sustainable development, water policy, governance, and management.
Outcomes of the recent meeting of water law specialists hosted by the UNSW Faculty of Law and the Connected Waters Research Initiative Research Centre (CWI) have been brought together in a special issue of Environmental Planning and Law Journal (EPLJ).
UNSW-led scientists studying a cave in Western Australia have shown that stalagmites formed by mineral-rich water drips from the ceiling could help reveal past wildfires that burned above the cave.