Tracking the timing of groundwater recharge

Congratulations to Associate Professor Martin Andersen and his multi-disciplinary colleagues at UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture, BEES, the Connected Waters Initiative network, Flinders University, and Deakin University for their ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) award announced in January 2022.

The successful ARC LIEF grant, led by Professor Andy Baker from BEES, will fund a network of sensors to be deployed in underground spaces, like caves, mines and tunnels to measure the timing of groundwater recharge.

Underground sensors to measure the timing of groundwater recharge. Illustration by Anna Blacka, UNSW Water Research LaboratoryRainfall events drive water flow through the terrestrial environment, causing rivers to flow and percolating through the ground especially where the bedrock contains fractures that expedite flow through the dry, upper layers of soil to the water table below. Our understanding of groundwater recharge is traditionally limited to changes measured in wells or boreholes; however, our network will place sensors in tunnels, mines and other subsurface spaces to measure recharge over time and space and utilise locally available rainfall data (e.g., from BoM) to calculate event-based recharge following rainfall.

The project aims to improve our understanding of groundwater recharge through a sensor network deployed in underground spaces located between soils and aquifers across the southeast of Australia (NSW, SA and VIC). This recharge-observing system will generate new knowledge which is fundamental for water resource management.

Expected outcomes include quantified rainfall recharge thresholds; a better understanding of climate, vegetation and geological controls on rainfall recharge in a time of changing climate and fire regimes; and improved understanding of spatial and temporal variability of rainfall recharge across these diverse environments.

“Compared to other parts of the hydrological cycle, determining groundwater recharge is notoriously difficult as the subsurface is so inaccessible. Therefore, being able to access and instrument these subsurface spaces is a great opportunity to learn more about processes in this inaccessible environment. This should provide significant benefits” says A/Prof Andersen, “for sectors of the Australian economy which rely upon the sustainable use of our collective groundwater resource.”  

UNSW Pro Vice-Chancellor Research Infrastructure, Professor Grainne Moran, applauded the University’s LIEF recipients.

“Our researchers’ strong result and our 35 per cent success rate in this strategically important scheme are to be commended. This funding helps support the substantial costs associated with research infrastructure as well as fostering collaboration through cooperative use of national and international facilities.”


LIEF Project Investigators:

Professor Andrew Baker; Dr Margaret Shanafield; Professor Wendy Timms; Dr Maria de Lourdes Melo Zurita; Associate Professor Martin Andersen
Amount awarded: $158,845

Associate Professor Martin AndersenAbout Associate Professor Martin Andersen:

Dr Martin Andersen is an Associate Professor with the Water Research Laboratory and School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UNSW since 2006. Martin has a MSc in Environmental Engineering Science and a PhD in Hydrogeochemistry. He has been part of the Connected Waters Initiative (CWI) since its inception and its Director from 2015 to 2020.

Martin’s primary research interest is groundwater resources with practical applications for water resources management, water quality problems and ecology. A significant part of his research is field oriented, giving Martin extensive experience in various field methods. Since coming to Australia, much of his research has been focused on groundwater processes, such as recharge and surface water-groundwater interactions at various sites in the Murray Darling Basin. As part of his research Martin has spent nearly a decade collecting data and managing NCRIS groundwater infrastructure sites (e.g., in the Namoi and Macquarie River valleys). 

He has extensive experience in numerical modelling of reactive flow and transport problems, using codes such as PHREEQC and SUTRA. Martin is currently teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses at UNSW in: groundwater hydrology, groundwater investigation techniques, groundwater geochemistry and aquatic chemistry.


For further information contact:

Martin Andersen | Associate Professor | m.andersen@wrl.unsw.edu.au

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