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Publications archive - International Activities and Commitments


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Cover of Nuclear techniques for sustainable water usage - WSSD 2002 case study

Nuclear techniques for sustainable water usage

WSSD 2002 case study
Environment Australia, August 2002

PDF file

About the case study

Australia is the driest inhabited continent. Many Australians depend on pumping water from aquifers to the surface, while others rely on river irrigation, especially for agriculture.

Groundwater use, however, is lowering water tables in some areas. In other regions, widespread land clearance and irrigation are raising water tables and bringing salt to the surface. Salinity currently affects about 2.5 million hectares of land and causes damage totalling A$270 million each year. It is a critical sustainable development issue facing Australia.

Researchers from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation have investigated many of Australia's large aquifers, including the Great Artesian Basin, the Mereenie Sandstone Aquifer and the Murray Basin. Water's age can be determined by measuring the presence of radioactive isotopes, carbon-14, chlorine-36 and tritium. Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen which is naturally radioactive, meaning it decays over time. The organisation also uses other chemistry techniques to understand the water's origin and flow path.

For example, the organisation's research into the Great Artesian Basin established that basin water is very old and unregulated use is causing an ongoing reduction in artesian pressure. There are now measures to control losses through untapped bores.

See also