Research projects

ARC Linkage: Ecohydrologic functioning of ephemeral streams


Collaborating Organisations: Rio TintoThe University of Western AustraliaFlinders University/NCGRT

Chief Investigators/Partner Investigators: Pauline GriersonGrzegorz SkrzypekCraig SimmonsPeter Cook, and Shawan Dogramaci

This project aims to increase understanding of how surface-groundwater interactions sustain vegetation associated with ephemeral streams. One of the biggest problems faced by mining and regional development in arid regions is how to protect the ecological and heritage values of ephemeral streams by minimising impacts of water abstraction and surplus discharge. The project will use environmental tracers coupled with an assessment of vegetation water use and numerical modelling, to assess the resilience of ephemeral streams to changes in flows resulting from mining activities and climate-related shifts in recharge. Outcomes of the project will provide an appropriate context for evaluating and adapting management to conserve scarce water resources.

This project tackles one of the most challenging problems for managing water resources in mined environments -identifying interactions between surface and ground waters and determining how, when and where vegetation access water, in order to protect key ecological values. Mining contributes about $12 billion and the groundwater industry about $6.8 billion per annum to the Australian economy; this project will contribute to the sustainable management of both mineral and groundwater resources.