Submission note: "A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the] Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution, La Trobe University, Bundoora"
Thesis with publications
The pursuit of sustainable groundwater resource management is a global aim that seeks to balance the present human ‘needs’ with the desire for the resource to be available to meet the needs of both the environment and future generations. There are two fundamental requirements to achieving this. Firstly, one needs to know as much about the groundwater systems as possible, but equally as important, one needs to know as much about the resource users as possible too. 3D hydrogeology provides improved methods for visualising and measuring a groundwater system of interest. Investigations into the emerging technology at the commencement of this study were applied to the Upper Loddon groundwater management area. The developed method built a dimensionally accurate 3D computer rendition of the groundwater system to generate both visualisations and water resource volume estimates. These defined how the system was responding to use and enabled the management of the resource to be considered in regard to the dynamics of recharge, use and natural fluxes. Study of groundwater users involved social surveys to investigate groundwater user’s knowledge of their resource, the type of information they prefer and their views on the management of their resource. Findings from in depth interviews with 30 groundwater users showed they were mostly supportive of the management plans in place over their water resource. A little disappointingly, they preferred simple aquifer water level information to more complex 3D renderings of the hydrogeology. Overall, their responses highlighted that development and implementation of groundwater resource planning was based upon a strong history of consensus building that developed a social licence (or sufficient stakeholder acceptance) to operate. Once groundwater resources are capped and no more entitlement is available, trade is the next step that leads to better utilisation and more productive use of groundwater. Yet levels of trade are low in Victoria and usage data shows that much of the issued entitlement is not used. Social data from three focus group meetings, 36 interviews with licensed bore owners and five water brokers provided first-hand trading experience and thoughts about trading. Analysis of this data indicated that trade was viewed in a positive way, but that there are myriad reasons why individuals may or may not trade. Policy changes could help facilitate trade, with improved information and reduced administrative burdens, but cost aspects and a large range of personal circumstances are major causes of trading inertia. Sustainable groundwater resource management is therefore very reliant upon knowing the groundwater system and knowing the users. It is concluded that in comparison with groundwater resource management in other countries, Victoria has in place a system that works quite well and provides a good basis for achieving sustainable groundwater resource management.
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