Groundwater change in the Murray basin from long- term in- situ monitoring and GRACE estimates

Marc Leblanc, Sarah Tweed, Guillaume Ramillien, Paul Tregoning, Frédéric Frappart, Adam Fakes, Ian Cartwright

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We present observations of groundwater change in a key, semi- arid, agricultural region of Australia, the Murray Groundwater Basin. Time series of in- situ groundwater levels archived in Government databases were compiled for all the States sharing this groundwater basin. A high quality subset of this dataset in a region affected by dryland salinity provides long-term in- situ observations on the respective impact of (1) increased recharge after deforestation and (2) the recent multi- year drought on groundwater levels. A change in the long- term dynamic of the water table is observed since the beginning of the drought in 1997 (1994 in some regions). The analysis of the bore data first showed a regional rise of the water table by ~5 cm/a from 1980 to 1992 followed by a regional decline at a rate of 17 cm/a from 1997 to 2009. Time series of groundwater storage anomalies obtained from a combination of total water storage using space gravimetry (GRACE) and soil moisture estimates from hydrological models also indicate a strong decline of the water table from 2002 to 2010. From August 2002 to December 2010, GRACE- based estimates indicate a groundwater loss of ~18 ± 1.3 mm/a which equates to a total loss of groundwater of ~45 ± 3 km3 over the ~300,000 km2 hydrogeological basin. These observations suggest that the impact of the drought on groundwater recharge counterbalanced and surpassed the impacts of past land-clearing and has brought a temporary halt to dryland salinity.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationClimate Change Effects on Groundwater Resources
Subtitle of host publicationA Global Synthesis of Findings and Recommendations
PublisherCRC Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780203120767
ISBN (Print)9780415689366
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011

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