Farmers want water 'banked' for future droughts

May 20, 2013

Australian farmers want excess water from large floods to be 'banked' in aquifers, for use in dry times.

A survey by researchers at the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) shows that farmers in the Namoi in the (MDB) are mainly supportive of water banking – storing underground – from large floods.

Their positive response is a big step towards providing rural and agricultural communities with additional water without drawing more from the over-extracted rivers of the Basin, says Professor Allan Curtis of the NCGRT and Charles Sturt University.

"Australia's farmers manage around 65 per cent of the continent and have access to large volumes of surface and groundwater," says Prof. Curtis. "With scientists predicting less and in the southern MDB over the next 60 years, we urgently need to help them address the growing threat of ."

Water banking, also known as managed aquifer recharge (MAR), should be the next step in in the MDB, Prof. Curtis says.

"Storing water underground is more efficient than saving it in the surface dams, on which Australia currently relies," Prof. Curtis says. "This is because large volumes of water are lost from surface storage by . Every year, the evaporative loss from farm dams in the Basin alone amounts to more than 1000 gigalitres (GL) – which is enough to supply Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide for a year."

As more places around Australia turn to water banking for later industrial or recreational use, researchers at NCGRT are exploring the possibility of re-charging depleted aquifers in farming landscapes using excess water from large floods. The survey of 210 farmers in the Namoi region reveals that two-thirds support the concept.

"The Namoi is one of Australia's prime and extracts the largest volume of groundwater for irrigation in the MDB," says Prof. Curtis. "It's an ideal location for implementing water banking using excess water, as large floods occur regularly in the lower Namoi, and researchers predict that this will continue to happen in the future."

"We found that the supporters of water banking are more business-like and more interested in fostering equal opportunities for all community members," says Prof. Curtis. "They generally have larger areas for irrigation, buy water more frequently, own larger entitlements and spend more time on their land.

"One of the respondents wrote 'it is about time someone promoted artificial recharge, farmers in our area have been trying to convince government departments to develop the process for years'."

On the other hand, those who expressed concern or opposed the idea said they needed more information about the concept, or were worried about possible negative environmental impacts, the survey reveals.

"It seems that they are less interested in production and profit if these outcomes negatively impact the health of the environment," Prof. Curtis says. "They are also more likely to have had the property in the family for longer."

"There is clearly strong support for water banking, but we need to address the other views as well, because their concerns are valid and deeply felt," he says. "We also need to explore issues such as how water banking fits with existing water sharing plans and allocations both locally and along the MDB, who pays for the infrastructure where there are private benefits, and how to secure rights to water which has been stored in aquifers."

Providing that it is carefully managed, water banking using water from large floods offers a largely ignored opportunity to achieve significant environmental, economic and social benefits, Prof. Curtis says.

"It can help sustain the region's agriculture, which is highly profitable. It can also replenish depleted and reduce evaporative losses from surface storages. This is potentially a win-win situation for all."

The study "Managed aquifer recharge in farming landscapes using large floods: an opportunity to improve outcomes for the Murray-Darling Basin?" by A. Rawluk, A. Curtis, E. Sharp, B.F.J. Kelly, A.J. Jakeman, A. Ross, M. Arshad, R. Brodie, C.A. Pollino, D. Sinclair, B. Croke and M.E. Qureshi has been published in the Australasian Journal of Environmental Management. See: bit.ly/14JBIhU

Explore further: Rising anger as Nicaragua canal to break ground

Provided by National Centre for Groundwater Research & Training

5 /5 (3 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Australia urged to 'bank' its water

Nov 27, 2012

Australia should prepare now for dry times ahead by 'banking' its water underground when rainfall is plentiful, according to an important new scientific study.

Huge scope to store water underground

May 03, 2012

There is potential to store large volumes of Australia’s precious fresh water underground, to offset climate change, avoid evaporation losses and meet national water needs into the future, leading water scientists say.

Australian continent takes a big drink

May 14, 2013

(Phys.org) —Devastating at the time, the major floods of 2011 have since brought a vital benefit by recharging Australia's depleted reserves of underground water.

Crumbling bores 'jeopardise nation's water'

Feb 05, 2013

Fifteen thousand collapsing bores – and a half-billion dollar repair bill – are endangering the future of Australia's largest and most precious resource, its groundwater.

New way to protect precious water

Apr 10, 2013

Australian scientists have devised a way to model polluted groundwater with computer simulation – and better protect the Earth's main fresh water supply.

Recommended for you

Rising anger as Nicaragua canal to break ground

22 hours ago

As a conscripted soldier during the Contra War of the 1980s, Esteban Ruiz used to flee from battles because he didn't want to have to kill anyone. But now, as the 47-year-old farmer prepares to fight for ...

Hopes, fears, doubts surround Cuba's oil future

Dec 20, 2014

One of the most prolific oil and gas basins on the planet sits just off Cuba's northwest coast, and the thaw in relations with the United States is giving rise to hopes that Cuba can now get in on the action.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.