Near-surface geophysics for informed water management decisions in the APY lands of South Australia

Geoscientists Without Borders
Water Management Projects

The direct humanitarian benefit will be information to local water management decisions about available ground water volume and quantity as well as suggested locations for future well installation.

The South Australian Parliament gave Aboriginal people title to more than 103,000 square kilometers of arid land in the far northwest of South Australia. Rainfall is highly variable and the land is arid to semi-arid. Access to potable water is of critical importance for these remote communities.

Combined nuclear magnetic resonance and time-domain electromagnetic methods will be used to map local aquifers, quantify water resources, locate potential fresh water sources for future well sites and guide informed decisions making regarding water resource management.

The key advantage of a combined TEM/NMR measures scheme is leveraging the unique unambiguous water detection capability of NMR with the fast data acquisition of TEM to reliable detect water and map aquifer geometry entirely non-invasively.

Status Complete

Statement of Work

The humanitarian project entitled "Near Surface Geophysics for Infonned Water management Decisions in the APY Lands of South Australia"- will be completed with funding from the SEG Foundation in partnership with the Stanford University. The principal investigator is willing and able to perform the Grant Activities described in this statement of work. The main goal of this project is to quantify and characterize water resources in order to inform sustainable aquifer management and ensure continued access to potable water. The intended outcomes of this study are I) documentation of the status of aquifers penetrated by existing wells for local residents planning use, 2) documentation of likely locations for future wells if needed and 3) the development of a protocol to investigate the sustainability of groundwater resources on which many remote communities in arid or desert rely. The fieldwork will serve to demonstrate its feasibility while simultaneously ensuring a sustainable water future for several communities in the APY lands.

  • Estimate the subsurface water availability surrounding existing wells: using both surface NMR and TEM measurements. Surface NMR will be used to identify the aquifer depth, thickness, and water content in the local vicinity of the well, and the conesponding geologic unit in the TEM results will be located. We will consider this objective to be successfully completed upon the acquisition, processing, and interpretation in tenns of water content and geologic structure of at least five coincident surface NMR and TEM soundings.
  • Estimate aquifer geometry and water quality (based on salinity) away from the wells: TI1e TEM data will then be inverted collectively to fonn a quasi-2D image in order to map aquifer extent and geometry using the geologic interpretation from the coincident surface NMR and TEM soundings. We will consider this objective to be successfully completed when the interpretation of the extent, geometry, and water quality of the aquifer has been extended from the I D TEM image (formed at the site of coincident TEM and NMR measurements) to cover a larger area beyond the well site.
  • Develop, demonstrate and document a protocol for combined NMR/TEM investigation and exploration for water resource management purposes in the APY lands: This protocol will be developed in a general context for application in a wide range of environments where water scarcity is of concern for community sustainability. We will consider this objective to be successfully completed upon the completion of a written tutorial in non-technical language that may be kept on file by CSIRO, the APY Land Management Unit (APYLMU), Department for Water, South Australia, the Goyder Institute and other water management agencies, as well as presented at the SEG fall meeting for implementation by future geoscientists in other regions.
  • Identify and document sites for possible future drinking water wells. We will consider this objective complete upon measurement and interpretation of the verifying surface NMR survey and the subsequent presentation of the optimal well location and screened interval to the regional water managers and community elders.

Principal Investigator

Dr Andrew Parsekian, University of Wyoming  

Team members

Stanford University: Denys Grombacher
CSIRO: Aaron Davis, Kevin Cahill, Timothy Munday
University of Adelaide: Professor Michael Hatch


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