TRaCK: Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge

Science and knowledge that governments, communities, industries for sustainable use of Australia's tropical rivers and estuaries

Participatory modelling of the Howard East aquifer

Participatory modelling of the Howard East aquifer

Participatory modelling of the Howard East aquifer

The Collaborative Water Planning Project aimed to improve community participation in water planning for Australia’s tropical north.

Over the course of fifteen months from 2008-9, the project trialled, promoted and evaluated two planning tools: a stakeholder analysis and a participatory groundwater visualisation tool (3D model).

The team worked closely with representatives from local stakeholder groups, members of the broader community and staff from the Water Resource Management Branch of the Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport (NRETAS) and independent experts from the Queensland University of Technology.

The Howard East bore field in the Northern Territory relies on groundwater supplies to satisfy rural and urban residential, horticultural and commercial needs. A regional water plan for the area is now in development but in the absence of more information, the 3D model was designed to ensure the Howard East Aquifer is managed sustainably for future generations.

The model relies on the best available data to help people understand ground water systems and answer the following questions: 

  • How does the Howard East Aquifer work?
  • What effect does the current rate of pumping have on local ground water levels?
  • Is the aquifer taking longer to recharge during the wet season?
  • Can you see the effects of pumping on the surface water bodies (e.g. Howard Springs, Girraween and McMinns Lagoon)?
  • Are older shallower bores likely to run dry in the future?

The model provides a detailed cross section of the Howard East Aquifer at specific points of interest. By selecting these areas, users can see the topography, soil type, surface and natural drainage features of the system, and watch short animations that illustrate the changes in aquifer levels over time and season.

This picture shows all of the private and commercial bores in the study area within the Howard East. Major roads such as the Stuart Hwy and Arnhem Hwy are marked in red. Users will be able to switch bores on and off depending on which aquifer they are drilled into (i.e. upper - cretaceous or lower - dolomite). Users can also watch groundwater levels change in the aquifer over time and space using amounts recorded from the area's 47 monitoring bores.

From this picture you can see that the model is able to slice the Howard aquifer at a number of points and reveal the geographical framework in a cross section below.

For more information about the project, read the summary report.

Bores Lithology, angular with roads
Geology, angular cross-section
This picture shows all of the private and commercial bores in the study area within the Howard East. Major roads such as the Stuart Hwy and Arnhem Hwy are marked in red. Users will be able to switch bores on and off depending on which aquifer they are drilled into (i.e. upper - cretaceous or lower - dolomite). Users can also watch groundwater levels change in the aquifer over time and space using amounts recorded from the area's 47 monitoring bores.
From this picture you can see that the model is able to slice the Howard aquifer at a number of points and reveal the geographical framework in a cross section below.