Water resource management and climate change

Water resource management and climate change are highly relevant challenges facing today’s societies and natural environments across the globe. Our researchers are thought leaders in this area, pursuing excellence in fundamental and applied research in the following key areas:

Groundwater resource and quality:

With groundwater resources continuing to deteriorate in quality around the world this area of research is of critical importance. Our researchers can offer expert groundwater management advice and solutions for effluent re-use and disposal and have considerable expertise in:

  • Water quality and biogeochemical processes
  • Interconnectivity of surface water and groundwater
  • Environmental and isotopic tracers
  • Investigating groundwater resource impacts from changing climate and land use (including agriculture, coal seam gas and mining)
  • The hydraulics and chemistry of aquitards (zones within the earth that restricts the flow of groundwater from one aquifer to another)
  • Coastal zone groundwater connectivity
  • Fractured rock systems and preferential flow
  • Cave and karst hydrogeology
  • Managed aquifer recharge
  • Heat as a groundwater tracer
  • The fate of hydraulic fracturing fluids
  • Contaminated land remediation
  • Subsurface contaminant and heat transport
  • The fate of engineered nanoparticles
  • 3D geological models
  • Site characterisation and resource assessment

Climate change and climate variability impacts on water:

The impact of climate change and variability on water is a burgeoning area of research, especially within UNSW’s Climate Change Research Centre. Our specialist expertise lies in the areas of:

  • El Nino - Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and related phenomena in the tropics and their impacts on regional climate and water security
  • Temperature and rainfall variability and extremes and how these are affected by land processes at regional scales
  • The present and future impact of global warming and carbon dioxide/ocean acidification on life in the oceans and on land
  • Key ocean processes that affect the climate system, including processes such as ENSO, the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), and Southern Ocean circulation
  • Developing models for weather and climate prediction for water management including factors that control rainfall and drought and extremes such as heat waves and heavy precipitation events
  • Regional modelling of the climate system for water and catchment managers and land surface models to reproduce ecosystem carbon and water dynamics
  • Marine impacts and responses to elevated CO2 concentrations and ocean acidification
  • Paleoclimatological understanding of droughts, floods and ecological tipping points


Hydroclimatology explains the relationship between the climate system and the hydrologic cycle. Our hydroclimatology research activities and specialist knowledge spans:

  • Modelling changes in flood and drought characteristics resulting from climate change using principles of uncertainty (including Bayesian and stochastic techniques) to model natural systems
  • Investigating changes in ecology or eco-hydrology resulting from land-use change and rising global temperatures
  • Formulating better approaches for quantifying surface soil moisture and precipitation using remote sensing techniques such as satellites and weather radars
  • Improving the basis for seasonal to interannual to decadal forecasting of rainfall and streamflow to better manage water availability in a sustainable manner

Hydrology and flooding: 

We have considerable expertise in the areas of hydrology and flooding with particular focus on:

  • Investigating catchment hydrology and the quality of runoff
  • Water budgeting
  • Reservoir operations
  • Desalination
  • Sedimentation
  • Geomorphology
  • Salinisation
  • Floodplain management