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Turning the tap on groundwater research


ECU’s research in wetlands and groundwater is globally recognised as a leader in the field.

A safe, sustainable water supply system is vital for humans, animals, and plants alike, but how do you ensure it remains healthy?

Securing Perth’s water supply

For the past 25 years, researchers from the ECU Centre for Ecosystem Management have taken the pulse of the Gnangara groundwater system, which supplies almost half of the fresh water needed for Perth’s metropolitan area.

This periodic study has measured important indicators including vegetation, aquatic animal life (excluding fish), and water quality to establish a report card for how the system is faring.

By revealing the effects of groundwater depletion, how acidification and wildfires disturb wetland vegetation, and groundwater quality and human exposure issues, this work has directly resulted in changes to water management responses and policy.

ECU groundwater research has also been cited in Environmental Protection Authority recommendations to the Western Australian Government, and Auditor General department reviews.

Mine lakes on notice

Beyond domestic water supply, another pressing area for research is the successful restoration of pit lakes used in mining operations.

Recommendations from ECU’s Associate Professor Mark Lund and Dr Melanie Blanchette have been taken up by industry, and the Environmental Protection Authority in their official guidelines for the preparation of mine closure plans.

Multiple industry-sponsored mine water projects have also been undertaken to explore successful, cost-effective approaches to ecosystem rehabilitation.

Groundwater research on the global stage

Groundwater-dependent ecosystems (GDEs) include aquifers, caves, lakes, rivers, and wetlands, and are directly linked to biodiversity and human health.

ECU groundwater research expertise is recognised globally. Professor Pierre Horwitz was appointed to the Scientific and Technical Review Panel of the Ramsar Convention – an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.

Professor Horwitz’s research has powerfully demonstrated that health problems “downstream” are manifestations of how we treat and manage the water and land “upstream”.

One hundred and seventy countries are signatory to the convention, encompassing more than 2,300 sites worldwide.

Professor Horwitz was a coordinating lead author of a Ramsar Convention/World Health Organization technical report – Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People.

ECU colleague Professor Ray Froend was appointed to Australia’s National Water Commission to develop a new, evidence-based “toolbox” to enable environmental managers to better identify, understand, and evaluate GDEs and the challenges facing them.

The Nature Conservancy, a leading environmental organisation based in the United States, commissioned Professor Froend to further develop guidelines for application under the US Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

For further information contact ECU Research.

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