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Groundwater Management and Monitoring in Australia Case Study

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Updated: Dec 16th, 2020

Australia

Over 50 percent of total groundwater withdrawals in Australia are for agricultural practices. Both state and territory governments manage and monitor groundwater in the country. In most cases, economic and regulatory strategies are used in the management of this resource. The main national government institutions tasked with the management and monitoring of groundwater include the Commonwealth Department of the Environment and the Office of the Water Science, Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Geoscience Australia, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2015).

The key regulatory policy is to ensure that groundwater abstraction and usage are within environmentally sustainable levels using the long-term average Sustainable Diversion Limits (SDL) for water resources (Dahlhaus et al., 2016). Groundwater ownership is public, and thus anyone in a position to drill wells or boreholes is allowed to seek authorization from the relevant authorities. Entitlement characteristics are permanent whereby they are tied to land rights, and thus they are transferrable. Companies, individuals, or collective bodies are allowed to be beneficiaries of the entitlements. Additionally, correlative rights are used as the doctrine of groundwater allocation practices (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2015).

All new wells have to be approved by the relevant authorities and metering for groundwater usage is mandatory. Similarly, groundwater management plans are compulsory as part of regulatory approaches. Currently, there is limited coordination between underground and surface-water management practices. Economic regulatory instruments are also used whereby groundwater markets are allowed. For instance, individuals can trade pumped water among users and water entitlement buy-outs are permitted. Currently, there are no groundwater tariffs in the country.

Bahrain

Bahrain’s main water resource is the Dammam Aquifer System, which offers 34 percent of the total water consumption in the entire country. The government, through the Water Resources Directorate of the Ministry of Municipalities Affairs and Agriculture, issues permits for drilling and withdrawing groundwater. The permits are renewable after every five years. Additionally, the water withdrawal levels can only reach a stated value in the permits. From 2010, all well owners are required to install meters at their cost before acquiring or renewing permits to use underground water (Closas & Molle, 2016).

Currently, out of the 1200 working wells, over 800 are metered, and they are monitored monthly to ensure compliance with the set regulations. Permit holders are required to allow officials from the Ministry to access the meters and take readings every month. Additionally, permit holders have to submit monthly abstraction records to the relevant authorities (Closas & Molle, 2016). In some cases, the Water Resource Directorate can decide to discontinue water withdrawal temporarily or permanently from certain wells depending on the nature of threat posed to underground water resources. Closas and Molle (2016) note that pricing of groundwater usage was resisted due to socio-political issues. In 1997, the parliament (then known as the consultative council) could not approve a ministerial order to impose a tariff of about 0.01 USD/m3 (Al Ansari, 2013). Therefore, currently, there are no tariffs for groundwater usage in the country. However, anyone withdrawing more water than the value stated on the permit is charged a certain fee depending on the excess volumes (Al Ansari, 2013).

Peru

The National Superintendence for Water Supply and Sanitation (SUNASS) is the body tasked with groundwater management and monitoring in Peru. In 2015, a Legislative Decree #1185 was passed to allow the implementation and administration of groundwater management and monitoring services tariff (GWMMT) in the country for individuals with personal wells not used for agricultural purposes (World Bank Group, n.d.). Water resources are government properties, and thus rights transfers are prohibited. Therefore, anyone seeking to use underground water has to be licensed by the government as part of the regulation strategies. The current tariffs for groundwater usage target industrial users whereby they “pay their share for the operating and capital cost of the projects that make available the groundwater they use” (World Bank Group, n.d., para. 5).

Jordan

The Water Authority of Jordan (WAJ) is the institution tasked with the management of underground water management and monitoring in the country. Underground water is a government property, and thus individuals have to get permission before accessing and using it. All wells have to be registered with WAJ. Additionally, WAJ sets the maximum abstraction levels for every well depending on the size of land under irrigation or other factors if the water is not being used for agriculture. Similarly, the distance between two wells has to be at least 1000 meters.

The government uses different strategies to manage and monitor groundwater abstraction. For instance, in 1992, the government suspended all well-drilling authorizations and imposed a tax of USD 0.35/ m3 for all pumped underground water (Closas & Molle, 2016). Drillers and drilling rigs must be licensed by WAJ and the licenses should be renewed annually. The government has increased its efforts to seal dried-up, unused, and illegal wells using dynamite to ensure that they cannot be reopened after inspection. In 2004, a Groundwater Control Bylaw (No. 85) was amended to impose a quota of 150,000 m3 of water per annum (Closas & Molle, 2016). A block tariff was also activated to for volumes exceeding this quota. Any amounts between 150,000 m3 and 200,000 m3 would be charged 25 fils/m3 (Closas & Molle, 2016). On the other hand, any amounts above 200,000 m3 would be levied 60 fils/m3 (Closas & Molle, 2016). However, these tariff rates vary depending on the region. For instance, in Mafraq taxes are higher because water availability is better as compared to Azraq.

Algeria

The Ministry of Water Resources is responsible for underground water management and monitoring in Algeria. Before any form of groundwater abstraction is done, a permit must be issued according to the Water Bill 05-12, which was passed in 2005 (Kuper, Amichi, & Mayaux, 2017). When applying for the permit, the applicant has to state the purpose of drilling and the length of using groundwater. Map showing the location of the well has to be provided together with pumping tests. Local, provincial, and state bodies are involved in the approval of the permits after they are satisfied that the applicant has met the requisite conditions. If an applicant halts groundwater exploitation, the relevant authorities have to be notified to have technical visits and assess the state of drilling. However, people are not required to obtain any form of licensing for shallow wells. All deep wells have to be licensed and metered.

Groundwater management in Algeria is not effective because most farmers are unregistered, and thus monitoring how they use water is a problem (Closas & Molle, 2016). Therefore, there is a proliferation of illegal wells across the country. Currently, there are no groundwater tariffs in the country.

References

Al Ansari, M. S. (2013). The water demand management in the Kingdom of Bahrain. International Journal of Engineering and Advanced Technology, 2(5), 544-554.

Closas, A., & Molle, F. (2016). Web.

Dahlhaus, P., Murphy, A., MacLeod, A., Thompson, H., McKenna, K., & Ollerenshaw, A. (2016). Making the invisible visible: The impact of federating groundwater data in Victoria, Australia. Journal of Hydroinformatics, 18(2), 238-255.

Kuper, M., Amichi, H., & Mayaux, P. -L. (2017). Groundwater use in North Africa as a cautionary tale for climate change adaptation. Water International, 42(6), 725-740.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2015). Web.

World Bank Group. (n.d.). Innovative groundwater tariff introduced in Peru. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Groundwater Management and Monitoring in Australia." December 16, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/groundwater-management-and-monitoring-in-australia/.

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