Water for a Healthy Country National Research Flagship

Bridgewater, Australia

Water for a Healthy Country National Research Flagship

Bridgewater, Australia
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Shanafield M.,Flinders University | Cook P.G.,Flinders University | Cook P.G.,Water for A Healthy Country National Research Flagship | McCallum J.,Flinders University | Simmons C.T.,Flinders University
Water Resources Research | Year: 2012

Existing analytical solutions to determine aquifer response to a change in stream stage are inappropriate where an unsaturated zone exists beneath the stream, as in the case of disconnected stream-aquifer systems. A better understanding of the relationship between aquifer response and transient stream stage in disconnected systems is therefore required, as this would also aid in the field determination of the status of connection between the stream and aquifer. We use a numerical model to examine transient stream stage and the corresponding water table response. Beneath disconnected streams, the magnitude of head change in the water table level is a balance between the cumulative infiltration during a flow event and the rate at which the water can disperse laterally. Increases in wave duration, stream width, and streambed permeability result in greater infiltrated water volume and therefore a higher peak response at the water table. Conversely, higher aquifer transmissivity and aquifer hydraulic conductivity allow the water to move laterally away from the stream faster, resulting in a smaller head change below the stream. Lower unsaturated storage results in a greater and faster aquifer response because the unsaturated zone can fill more quickly. Under some combinations of parameters, the magnitude of the disconnected head response is more than seven times greater than the change in stream stage driving streambed infiltration; an effect which can never occur beneath a connected stream. The results of this sensitivity analysis are compared to field data from a river in eastern Australia to determine periods of disconnection. Where the change in aquifer head is greater than the change in stream stage, disconnection between the stream and aquifer can be determined. © 2012 American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

Page D.,CSIRO | Page D.,Water for a Healthy Country National Research Flagship | Dillon P.,CSIRO | Dillon P.,Water for a Healthy Country National Research Flagship | And 10 more authors.
Journal of Environmental Quality | Year: 2010

The objective of the Parafield Aquifer Storage Transfer and Recovery research project in South Australia is to determine whether stormwater from an urban catchment that is treated in a constructed wetland and stored in an initially brackish aquifer before recovery can meet potable water standards. The water produced by the stormwater harvesting system, which included a constructed wetland, was found to be near potable quality. Parameters exceeding the drinking water guidelines before recharge included small numbers of fecal indicator bacteria and elevated iron concentrations and associated color. This is the first reported study of a managed aquifer recharge (MAR) scheme to be assessed following the Australian guidelines for MAR. A comprehensive staged approach to assess the risks to human health and the environment of this project has been undertaken, with 12 hazards being assessed. A quantitative microbial risk assessment undertaken on the water recovered from the aquifer indicated that the residual risks posed by the pathogenic hazards were acceptable if further supplementary treatment was included. Residual risks from organic chemicals were also assessed to be low based on an intensive monitoring program. Elevated iron concentrations in the recovered water exceeded the potable water guidelines. Iron concentrations increased after underground storage but would be acceptable after postrecovery aeration treatment. Arsenic concentrations in the recovered water continuously met the guideline concentrations acceptable for potable water supplies. However, the elevated concentration of arsenic in native groundwater and its presence in aquifer minerals suggest that the continuing acceptable residual risk from arsenic requires further evaluation. Copyright © 2010 by the American Society of Agronomy.

Page D.,CSIRO | Dillon P.,CSIRO | Toze S.,CSIRO | Toze S.,Water for a Healthy Country National Research Flagship | And 4 more authors.
Water Research | Year: 2010

A quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) was performed at four managed aquifer recharge (MAR) sites (Australia, South Africa, Belgium, Mexico) where reclaimed wastewater and stormwater is recycled via aquifers for drinking water supplies, using the same risk-based approach that is used for public water supplies. For each of the sites, the aquifer treatment barrier was assessed for its log10 removal capacity much like for other water treatment technologies. This information was then integrated into a broader risk assessment to determine the human health burden from the four MAR sites. For the Australian and South African cases, managing the aquifer treatment barrier was found to be critical for the schemes to have low risk. For the Belgian case study, the large treatment trains both in terms of pre- and post-aquifer recharge ensures that the risk is always low. In the Mexico case study, the risk was high due to the lack of pre-treatment and the low residence times of the recharge water in the aquifer. A further sensitivity analysis demonstrated that human health risk can be managed if aquifers are integrated into a treatment train to attenuate pathogens. However, reduction in human health disease burden (as measured in disability adjusted life years, DALYs) varied depending upon the number of pathogens in the recharge source water. The beta-Poisson dose response curve used for translating rotavirus and Cryptosporidium numbers into DALYs coupled with their slow environmental decay rates means poor quality injectant leads to aquifers having reduced value to reduce DALYs. For these systems, like the Mexican case study, longer residence times are required to meet their DALYs guideline for drinking water. Nevertheless the results showed that the risks from pathogens can still be reduced and recharging via an aquifer is safer than discharging directly into surface water bodies. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd.

Cleverly J.,University of Technology, Sydney | Boulain N.,University of Technology, Sydney | Villalobos-Vega R.,University of Technology, Sydney | Grant N.,University of Technology, Sydney | And 7 more authors.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences | Year: 2013

Vast areas in the interior of Australia are exposed to regular but infrequent periods of heavy rainfall, interspersed with long periods at high temperatures, but little is known of the carbon budget of these remote areas or how they respond to extreme precipitation. In this study, we applied three methods to partition net ecosystem photosynthesis into gross primary production (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (Re) during two years of contrasting rainfall. The first year was wet (>250 mm above average rainfall), while little precipitation fell during the second year (>100 mm below average). During the first year of study, rates of GPP were large (793 g C m-2 yr-1) in this semi-arid Mulga (Acacia aneura) and grass savanna due to complementary photosynthetic responses by the canopy and C4 understorey to cycles of heavy rainfall. Patterns in GPP during the summer and autumn matched those in leaf area index (LAI), photosynthetic activity, and autotrophic respiration. During the dry year, small but positive photosynthetic uptake by Mulga contributed to the neutral carbon budget (GPP / Re = 1.06 ± 0.03). Small rates of photosynthesis by evergreen Mulga when dry were supported by storage of soil moisture above a relatively shallow hardpan. Little soil organic matter (1.1%) was available to support heterotrophic respiration (Rh) without input of fresh substrate. The two largest sources of Re in this study were autotrophic respiration by the seasonal understorey and Rh through decomposition of fresh organic matter supplied by the senescent understorey. © 2013. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

Batlle-Aguilar J.,Flinders University | Harrington G.A.,Flinders University | Harrington G.A.,Water for A Healthy Country National Research Flagship | Harrington G.A.,Innovative Solutions | And 4 more authors.
Water Resources Research | Year: 2014

We present an approach for identifying groundwater discharge chemistry and quantifying spatially distributed groundwater discharge into rivers based on longitudinal synoptic sampling and flow gauging of a river. The method is demonstrated using a 450 km reach of a tropical river in Australia. Results obtained from sampling for environmental tracers, major ions, and selected trace element chemistry were used to calibrate a steady state one-dimensional advective transport model of tracer distribution along the river. The model closely reproduced river discharge and environmental tracer and chemistry composition along the study length. It provided a detailed longitudinal profile of groundwater inflow chemistry and discharge rates, revealing that regional fractured mudstones in the central part of the catchment contributed up to 40% of all groundwater discharge. Detailed analysis of model calibration errors and modeled/measured groundwater ion ratios elucidated that groundwater discharging in the top of the catchment is a mixture of local groundwater and bank storage return flow, making the method potentially useful to differentiate between local and regional sourced groundwater discharge. As the error in tracer concentration induced by a flow event applies equally to any conservative tracer, we show that major ion ratios can still be resolved with minimal error when river samples are collected during transient flow conditions. The ability of the method to infer groundwater inflow chemistry from longitudinal river sampling is particularly attractive in remote areas where access to groundwater is limited or not possible, and for identification of actual fluxes of salts and/or specific contaminant sources. Key Points River sampling allows determining chemistry of groundwater discharge No assumption of groundwater end-member chemistry is required Bank storage water return can be partially identified © 2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

Taylor A.R.,CSIRO | Taylor A.R.,Water for a Healthy Country National Research Flagship | Lamontagne S.,CSIRO | Lamontagne S.,Water for a Healthy Country National Research Flagship | And 2 more authors.
Soil Research | Year: 2013

Riverbed hydraulic conductivity (Kr) was measured along one river reach in four tributaries of the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) in south-eastern Australia. Two techniques were trialled: in-river falling-head tests in high Kr sediments, and laboratory evaporation tests on intact riverbed cores for low Kr sediments. In-river falling-head tests were conducted using two types of permeameter: a steel-base permeameter or a stand-pipe permeameter. Kr was found to range from 10-10 to 10-3ms-1, corresponding to a range in riverbed sediment textures from clay to silty gravels, respectively. Although the within-reach variability in Kr was also large, in general the river reaches could be divided in two groups, those with a low Kr (<10-8ms-1) or a high Kr (>10-5ms-1). The low Kr reach (Billabong Creek) was a clay-lined bed, whereas the others had silty sand or silty gravel beds. Thus, regional-scale assessments of Kr in the MDB could be made using a stratified sampling process in which reaches would be first classified into low or high Kr classes, and then Kr measurements made in a subsample of low and high Kr reaches. This would be an improvement over the current practice whereby riverbed Kr is estimated either from regional soil maps or through the calibration of groundwater models. © CSIRO 2013.

McCallum J.L.,Water for A Healthy Country National Research Flagship | Cook P.G.,Water for A Healthy Country National Research Flagship | Cook P.G.,Flinders University | Brunner P.,Flinders University | Berhane D.,New South Wales Office of Water
Water Resources Research | Year: 2010

Chemical base flow separation is a widely applied technique in which contributions of groundwater and surface runoff to streamflow are estimated based on the chemical composition of stream water and the two end-members. This method relies on the assumption that the groundwater end-member can be accurately defined and remains constant. We simulate solute transport within the aquifer during and after single and multiple river flow events, to show that (1) water adjacent to the river will have a concentration intermediate between that of the river and that of regional groundwater and (2) the concentration of groundwater discharge will approach that of regional groundwater after a flow event but may take many months or years before it reaches it. In applying chemical base flow separation, if the concentration in the river prior to a flow event is used to represent the pre-event or groundwater end-member, then the groundwater contribution to streamflow will be overestimated. Alternatively, if the concentration of regional groundwater a sufficient distance from the river is used, then the pre-event contribution to streamflow will be underestimated. Changes in concentration of groundwater discharge following changes in river stage predicted by a simple model of stream-aquifer flows show remarkable similarity to changes in river chemistry measured over a 9 month period in the Cockburn River, southeast Australia. If the regional groundwater value was used as the groundwater end-member, chemical base flow separation techniques would attribute 8% of streamflow to groundwater, as opposed to 25% if the maximum stream flow value was used. © 2010 by the American Geophysical Union.

Batlle-Aguilar J.,Flinders University | Cook P.G.,Flinders University | Cook P.G.,Water for A Healthy Country National Research Flagship
Water Resources Research | Year: 2012

An infiltration experiment at the stream reach scale was performed to estimate infiltration rates beneath an ephemeral, losing stream during streamflow events. At a time when the stream was dry, a 7 m stream section was dammed upstream and downstream using metal sheets. During a 5 day period water was pumped into the isolated section of the stream, and the surface water level was maintained at three successive increasing stages. The infiltration rate at each water level was thereby equal to the pumping rate required to maintain that water level. The advantages of the method are that it samples a much greater area than traditional methods and provides information on infiltration through stream banks as well as through the streambed. Experimental results provide insight into transient infiltration and recharge processes beneath ephemeral streams. Although the experiment continued for 5 days, infiltration during the first hour accounted for 19% of the total infiltration. High transient infiltration rates were also observed following each increase in stream stage. Experimental infiltration rates were used to calibrate a two-dimensional model developed within Hydrus, which was subsequently used to estimate infiltration associated with a natural flow event in the same stream reach. During the natural flow event, the total infiltration was 33% greater than would have been estimated assuming steady state infiltration rates. Dry antecedent moisture content controls the transient infiltration rate and hence increases the total infiltrated volume during flow events, but it does not increase the aquifer recharge. © 2012. American Geophysical Union.

Xie Y.,Flinders University | Cook P.G.,Flinders University | Cook P.G.,Water for a Healthy Country National Research Flagship | Brunner P.,University of Neuchatel | And 2 more authors.
Groundwater | Year: 2014

Decline in regional water tables (RWT) can cause losing streams to disconnect from underlying aquifers. When this occurs, an inverted water table (IWT) will develop beneath the stream, and an unsaturated zone will be present between the IWT and the RWT. The IWT marks the base of the saturated zone beneath the stream. Although a few prior studies have suggested the likelihood of an IWT without a clogging layer, most of them have assumed that a low-permeability streambed is required to reduce infiltration from surface water to groundwater, and that the IWT only occurs at the bottom of the low-permeability layer. In this study, we use numerical simulations to show that the development of an IWT beneath an unclogged stream is theoretically possible under steady-state conditions. For a stream width of 1 m above a homogeneous and isotropic sand aquifer with a 47 m deep RWT (measured in an observation point 20 m away from the center of the stream), an IWT will occur provided that the stream depth is less than a critical value of 4.1 m. This critical stream depth is the maximum water depth in the stream to maintain the occurrence of an IWT. The critical stream depth decreases with stream width. For a stream width of 6 m, the critical stream depth is only 1 mm. Thus while theoretically possible, an IWT is unlikely to occur at steady state without a clogging layer, unless a stream is very narrow or shallow and the RWT is very deep. © 2014.

Cook P.G.,Flinders University | Cook P.G.,Water for a Healthy Country National Research Flagship
Hydrological Processes | Year: 2013

Environmental tracer methods have been used to quantify groundwater discharge to rivers for the past few decades. A number of different tracers have been used in these studies, including individual ion concentrations, electrical conductivity, stable isotopes 2H and 18O, and the dissolved gases helium, chlorofluorocarbons and radon. This paper discusses the assumptions of the method, as well as its resolution and accuracy. The method will be most accurate when the tracer concentration in groundwater is very distinct from that in the river. On the basis of typical parameters, groundwater inflow rates as low as 5mm/day can usually be estimated with electrical conductivity and ion tracers. A lower limit of resolution of approximately 2mm/day is usually possible with radon, principally because the ratio of the river concentration to the groundwater concentration will be higher. However, hyporheic exchange can also contribute radon to the river. Where this process is significant, it is more difficult to estimate groundwater inflow from radon activities in the river, thus reducing the accuracy of the method. For CFCs, the lower limit of resolution is approximately 30mm/day. Helium has not been widely used but can potentially be very accurate if the groundwater is old. The method assumes steady-state conditions and so can only be applied when river flows are stable. Sampling resolution is also particularly important for dissolved gases, and uncertainty in where groundwater inflow occurs between sampling points can cause large uncertainty in inflow rates if the distance between sample locations is large. Poor mixing of solutes within the river can limit the method if the river is wide and shallow. When correctly applied, however, the environmental tracer method is able to provide robust estimates of groundwater discharge at a scale and accuracy that is not possible with most other methods. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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