NCGRT 2014 Distinguished Lecturer

Peter Dillon: Progress in Managed Aquifer Recharge and the Water Banking Frontier - followed by an interactive session “Listening to local MAR progress, plans and implementation issues" (separate registration for the workshop).

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Peter Dillon: Progress in Managed Aquifer Recharge and the Water Banking Frontier followed by an interactive session “Listening to local MAR progress, plans and implementation issues".  

Twenty two years of CSIRO and partners’ scientific research on managed aquifer recharge with urban stormwater and recycled water has involved a combination of monitoring of first of breed demonstration projects, synthesis across projects, laboratory studies and modelling. Knowledge generated has helped MAR operators to reduce costs, improve reliability and enhance water quality, and seen a gradual expansion in the number, scale and scope of projects. Some of this knowledge has been incorporated in the Australian Guidelines for Managed Aquifer Recharge and in National Water Commission guidance on water allocation policies for MAR. These are ahead of the international pack largely due to the sound foundations of Australia’s twin national treasures – the National Water Initiative and the National Water Quality Management Strategy that have permitted field operations and research.

Although in the last four years about $400M of new MAR projects have been initiated in Australia, adoption in Australian jurisdictions is still very patchy, in part related to real or perceived hydrogeological opportunity, overstretched State Departments for Water Resources and Environment and the need for policies to encourage investment in integrated water resources management and water security. Current MAR in urban areas (28GL/year) and rural and resources industries (60GL/year) are only about 10% of their crudely estimated national potential. However MAR also offers higher value adding through water banking to bridge droughts. This practice is yet to materialise in Australia and is poised to capitalise on our two national treasures and our current MAR research capacity.

The Australian Federal Minister of Agriculture has said “Water is wealth and stored water is a bank”. Water, when it is most scarce, is of the highest value to cities, farms and the environment. The Minister’s statement on banking describes managed aquifer recharge better than it does dams for meeting drought and emergency supplies. Storing water in aquifers whenever surface supplies exceed demand is generally more economic and environmentally benign than storing in dams alone, especially in areas with high evaporation and a warming climate, or if the aquifer is already depleted. Use of a small dam for temporary storage in conjunction with a large aquifer for long term storage presents a practical solution to water banking and water supply insurance.

This talk will cover a retrospective on some key research findings that together with our national treasures have given Australia an international head-start on the practice of MAR with urban stormwater and on MAR guidelines and policy. Myths that have deferred uptake and remaining research gaps will be exposed. The talk will also project forward to reveal new technical, policy and institutional considerations for implementing water banking for drought security. It will conclude with a concise summary of current activities of the IAH Commission on MAR.

About Dr Dillon

Dr Dillon has 25 years research experience in surface water-groundwater interaction, groundwater quality protection from diffuse and point sources and agricultural water reuse. For over a decade Dr Dillon has led research on managed aquifer recharge with stormwater and reclaimed water.

Dr Dillon has undertaken research projects in all Australian states and led international research projects on management of aquifer recharge. He is the founding Chairman of the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) Commission on Management of Aquifer Recharge.

The 2015 Distinguished Lecture series will start at local time as follows:

  • Brisbane, Tuesday June 2, time and venue to be advised
  • Sydney, Wednesday June 3, time and venue to be advised
  • Canberra, Friday June 5, time and venue to be advised
  • Adelaide, Thursday June 11, time and venue to be advised
  • Melbourne, Tuesday June 23, time and venue to be advised
  • Hobart, Friday June 26, time and venue to be advised
  • Perth, Tuesday July 28, time and venue to be advised
  • Darwin, Thursday July 30, time and venue to be advised


This series is presented in conjunction with the International Association of Hydrogeologists, Australia.