Protecting groundwater levels and ecosystems with simple management approaches

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Groundwater quantity is often managed using simple tools. The most common are (1) basin or sub-basin scale volumetric allocations, usually based on either historic use or estimates of recharge, (2) trigger-level management which regulates use according to observations of groundwater level, and (3) buffer zones, which control the location of wells, particularly around groundwater-dependent ecosystems (GDEs). The volumetric approach limits the long-term impact of abstraction and provides a stable, secure supply for groundwater users. However, this approach does not consider the spatial distribution of recharge and discharge, and so is poor at protecting GDEs. Buffer zones provide an effective means of limiting the short-term impact of abstraction on GDEs, and can also be used to shift impact from high to low priority GDEs. However, buffer zones mostly delay the impacts of abstraction on groundwater level and flow, and are less effective for managing long-term impacts. Groundwater response triggers aim to directly control groundwater levels, although the success of this approach is highly dependent on the location of the observation well, and the trigger value. This makes its successful implementation extremely difficult. Used alone, none of these approaches will successfully protect the environment. In combination, they can provide reasonable protection for ecosystems and reliability of groundwater supply for users.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-237
Number of pages13
JournalHydrogeology Journal
Issue number1
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2019


  • Buffer zones
  • Groundwater management
  • Groundwater/surface-water relations
  • Sustainability
  • Trigger levels


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