Connected Waters Initiative (CWI) Research Centre

The UNSW Groundwater Research Centre

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.

Latest news

New technique assesses threat to groundwater from coal seam gas extraction

New technique assesses threat to groundwater from coal seam gas extraction

5 January 2016

A UNSW-led research team has devised a technique for detecting if methane from coal seam gas extraction sites is leaking into nearby groundwater, and has tested it for the first time in Queensland.

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PhD Opportunities in: environmental nanotechnology; groundwater dissolved organic matter; surface water - groundwater interactions

PhD Opportunities in: environmental nanotechnology; groundwater dissolved organic matter; surface water - groundwater interactions

5 January 2016

The Connected Water Initiative Research Centre, UNSW Australia, is seeking high quality International and Domestic applicants to apply for PhD positions to start in July 2016. Fully funded and fees-only UNSW scholarships are now available.

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Latest study a first step toward major groundwater carbon research project goal

Latest study a first step toward major groundwater carbon research project goal

24 December 2015

Research published this week by the UNSW Connected Waters Initiative (CWI) provides new information about the effect of groundwater extraction on sub-surface carbon reserves.

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American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2015

American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2015

18 December 2015

CWI was well represented at the world's largest earth and space science conference in held San Francisco in December 2015.

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Strong CWI presence at the Australian Groundwater Conference 2015

Strong CWI presence at the Australian Groundwater Conference 2015

9 November 2015

The UNSW Connected Waters Initiative (CWI) team had a very strong presence at the 2015 Australian Groundwater Conference in Canberra.

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