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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.
University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) researchers working at Yarrangobilly Caves in the Australian Snowy Mountains have found new information from cave deposits that will help reconstruct past climates and groundwater recharge processes.
National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS)-funded infrastructure at the UNSW Fowlers Gap research Station has recorded a rainfall event that greatly exceeded all previous records collected during 45 years of monitoring.
A number of advances in our understanding of the timing and rate of unsaturated zone infiltration were made during 2014, thanks to the NCRIS infrastructure at Wellington in central-west NSW.
The Connected Waters Initiative Research Centre team had a strong presence again this year at the AGU Fall meeting.