NSW IAH Symposium 2011 - Uncertainty in Hydrogeology

Posted 25 May 2011

Conference Convenor

The NSW Chapter of the International Association of Hydrogeologists is convening the NSW IAH Groundwater Symposium 2011, Hydrogeology in NSW - the challenge of uncertainty, from 5th to the 6th September, 2011

The recent focus on the precious groundwater resources of NSW and the uncertainty surrounding resource sustainability has prompted the symposium theme. Uncertainty surrounding natural systems particularly applies to groundwater as does the concepts of risk, resilience and adaptation.

Why now

Uncertainty

Science is the business of trying to predict, understand and manage amidst uncertainty. Our profession of groundwater management continually explores uncertainty. How can we embrace uncertainty in our work with industry and governments, and how to we formulate methods to incorporate uncertainty when planning for future sustainability? How do we interpret short term data to make long term policy decisions with an inherent uncertainty in the outcome?

Risk

Uncertainty generally leads to an element of risk when the time arrives to make a firm decision. How do we as groundwater professionals assess risk related to groundwater level and water quality changes over time? How do we go about assessing the risk of change within a certain timeframe? What new techniques can we employ to consider the risk related to development within connected systems and the time lag between groundwater extraction and impacts on surface water? How to account for this in 10 year management plans and also consider the longer term intergenerational equity and sustainability is a key challenge for groundwater managers and policy makers. Can we develop methods to incorporate uncertainty for decision makers that need to consider risk?

Resilience

The recent drought across NSW has lead to a much greater awareness of the existence and resilience of our important groundwater systems. How much stress can we impose before there is an irreversible or 'unacceptable' impact on the aquifer, the environment, or users? How do we better understand and incorporate the resilience of hydrogeological systems? We can predict the impact of pumping on groundwater level declines localised areas over short timeframes, but how do we define how regional systems will respond over the long term to imposed stresses? Are the deep basins such as the Great Artesian Basin and the shallow alluvial systems in the upper reaches of our rivers and coastal sands, adequately considered in respect of their ability to buffer these 'short' term climatic trends?

Adaptation

Groundwater systems and associated ecosystems will adapt to transitions to new equilibrium conditions. However, the question is, will we? Are we in a position to fully understand the response of groundwater systems to changes over time such as the rates of recharge (changes in climate) or discharge (groundwater extraction)? Do we understand that groundwater systems will adapt, but the system may no longer be 'productive' or of ecological value for us. The groundwater system will adapt, but over what timeframe, and what will it look like? Are we able to comprehend the changes that drive adaptations of our groundwater systems? What are acceptable adaptations for our communities and environments? Do we need to be more aware of market trends, commodity prices, and policies that may influence changes in demand for groundwater and subsequent adaptations to our systems?

Conference Themes

Delegates will be challenged to consider uncertainty on various levels in the context of specific themes. The concepts of risk, resilience and adaptation underline the topic of uncertainty and the conference will continually invoke them to fuel the debate. This conference will be a forum for new ideas and lively debate on the uncertainty within the following specific themes:

  • Coal Seam Gas
  • Mining
  • Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems
  • Groundwater -Surface Water interaction
  • Coastal systems
  • Resource development
  • Urban environments
  • Climate change and population growth
  • Managed Aquifer Recharge
  • NSW Government Legislation and policies (New Macro Water Sharing Plans)
  • Groundwater Education for Professionals ,Schools and the Public
  • Any presentation on these themes is invited but those which focus on the uncertainty aspects of the work are especially welcome.

Who should attend?

Groundwater professionals in industry, policy makers in government, regional hydrogeologists in NSW, Coal Seam Gas industry representatives, mining industry representatives (coal and metaliferous), consultants, landholders, academics and other interested parties.

More information and registration:

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