Wa­ter sys­tems re­vealed

Pilbara News - - News - Court­ney Fowler

■ An un­prece­dented ac­count of the wa­ter re­sources of the Pil­bara, pro­vid­ing an in-depth un­der­stand­ing of lo­cal wa­ter sys­tems and the po­ten­tial im­pacts of cli­mate change on wa­ter avail­abil­ity, has been re­vealed by a CSIRO study.

The Pil­bara Wa­ter Re­source As­sess­ment area ex­am­ined sur­face wa­ter and ground­wa­ter re­sources, and their en­vi­ron­men­tal sig­nif­i­cance on the Ash­bur­ton-Robe, Up­per Fortes­cue, Lower Fortes­cue Hed­land and De Grey-Can­ning catch­ments.

CSIRO pro­ject leader Dr Don McFar­lane said the $3.5 mil­lion three-year pro­ject be­tween the CSIRO, BHP Bil­li­ton and the State Gov­ern­ment would al­low wa­ter man­agers and lo­cal in­dus­try to plan wa­ter use.

“Know­ing how the wa­ter sys­tems op­er­ate right across the re­gion, such as how ground­wa­ter is af­fected by rain­fall and storm events, helps with the plan­ning and man­age­ment of lo­cal wa­ter use,” he said.

“By help­ing to put a lot of smaller lo­cal wa­ter re­source in­ves­ti­ga­tions into a broader con­text, this study pro­vides a strong frame­work for wa­ter man­agers and lo­cal in­dus­tries well into the fu­ture.”

The study re­vealed some of the mech­a­nisms that filled the Pil­bara’s ground­wa­ter stores.

It found that be­tween 8mm and 30mm of rain­fall was re­quired be­fore run-off started in most catch­ments, which leaks through stream beds to pro­vide the main source of aquifer re­plen­ish­ment.

It also ex­am­ined how ecosys­tems de­pen­dent on the re­gion’s ground­wa­ter sources have changed as a re­sult of wet and dry pe­ri­ods, find­ing they ex­pand dur­ing wet pe­ri­ods and con­tract dur­ing dry pe­ri­ods, but have re­mained rel­a­tively sta­ble in num­ber in the past 23 years.

BHP Bil­li­ton Iron Ore’s wa­ter prac­tice lead Blair Dou­glas said the fun­da­men­tal science de­liv­ered by the study could be ap­plied by in­dus­try to achieve prac­ti­cal and sus­tain­able wa­ter man­age­ment so­lu­tions.

“The study pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss our re­gional wa­ter re­source key con­sid­er­a­tions and high­light the ar­eas re­quir­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” he said.

The as­sess­ment was funded by a $500,000 con­tri­bu­tion from BHP Bil­li­ton and $1.5 mil­lion each from the CSIRO and the State Gov­ern­ment through the Roy­al­ties for Re­gions pro­gram.

The re­search pro­ject was led by the CSIRO and over­seen by the Depart­ment of Wa­ter, BHP Bil­li­ton, the Pil­bara De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion and the Wa­ter Cor­po­ra­tion.

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