Law School

Groundwater Regulation in a Drying South West



The south west of Western Australia has experienced a significant decline in rainfall and streamflow since the mid-1970s, increasing pressure on its valuable groundwater resources.

This one year research project, which concluded on 30 June 2014, considered this experience and its implications for groundwater management and regulation. It investigated the following questions:

  • How can groundwater use be maintained within sustainable limits in a drying climate, and how can groundwater be used productively and efficiently within these limits?
  • What role does the regulatory framework for groundwater management have in achieving these goals?

The analysis and recommendations in the final report are relevant to water law reform in Western Australia, and seek to contribute to scholarship on groundwater law and policy more generally – an important area, given that groundwater is the source of around one third of freshwater withdrawals worldwide.

The research was funded by the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, an Australian Government initiative supported by the Australian Research Council and the National Water Commission.

Final Report

Draft Report for Consultation

The explanations and recommendations in the draft report are those of the researchers alone unless specifically attributed.   While the Department of Water and other State Government agencies have assisted our research by the provision of data and information, the explanations and recommendations in this presentation and draft report are entirely independent of those agencies and not to be taken in any way as representing the views of those agencies or State Government policy.

We sought feedback on the draft report through:

  • A roundtable meeting of local government, business and community groups held in Perth on 9 April 2014
  • A public seminar held at the University of Western Australia on 10 April 2014
  • A public seminar held in Busselton on 14 April 2014
  • One-on-one interviews with people with knowledge of the case studies in the report, or suggestions for other case studies.

A recording of the Perth seminar is available here. Unfortunately only the first hour was recorded due to technical difficulties. The full set of overheads from the presentation is available below.

Drying climate leads to push for water law reform. Media release.

Introductory literature review

Papers and Presentations

Bennett and Gardner, 'The National Water Initiative and Climate Change in South West Western Australia: Implications for Water Law Reform' (NELA WA State Conference, Water in Practice: Laws for a Limited Resource, 11 October 2013)

Bennett and Gardner, 'Groundwater Management in a Drying South West' (WA National Water Week Conference, Busselton, 25 October 2013)

M Bennett and A Gardner, 'How do environmental conservastion laws interact with environmental aspects of water laws?' (2014) 1 EPLJ 3.



Bennett, Submission on Water Resource Management Reform Position Paper (December 2013)