Craig T. Simmons

The Groundwater Grand Challenge

Groundwater is core to many critical contemporary issues concerning our environment, food and water security, coal seam gas and fracking, mining, energy and nuclear waste disposal. Groundwater supplies half of the world’s drinking water and nearly half of the water used for growing food. Groundwater depletion and pollution are major global problems. Climate change and population growth will place additional stress on already stretched groundwater resources. This talk explores the challenges and opportunities for groundwater: spanning social, economic and environmental dimensions; to management; policy; science and research; education and training and the vital links between them.

Groundwater modelling is core to environmental impact statements that underpin mining and coal seam gas development proposals and establishing sustainable water allocation plans. The crucial role of mathematical modelling in environmental decision-making and assessment is discussed. Some critical challenges facing groundwater modelling are described together with examples from water, agriculture, mining and energy sectors. These challenges and opportunities include modelling in a risk-based framework; uncertainty analysis; model simplicity and complexity; data worth analyses; dealing with geologic heterogeneity; stochastic representation of subsurface systems; optimization problems and approaches; building physically-based, fully-integrated, simulations of catchment-scale hydrologic processes; and dealing with big data and high performance computing issues.

Professor Craig T. Simmons

Director, National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT)
Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor of Hydrogeology
Schultz Chair in the Environment, Flinders University

Professor Simmons is Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor of Hydrogeology and Schultz Chair in the Environment at Flinders University. He is Director of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training. Professor Simmons is a leading international authority in hydrogeology and is considered one of Australia’s foremost groundwater academics. He is a member of the Australian Government’s Statutory Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC). He is also a member of the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Roundtable on Unconventional Hydrocarbon Development. He is Chair of the Alligator Rivers Region Technical Committee, which oversees science in the Ranger Uranium Mine in World Heritage Listed Kakadu National Park. Professor Simmons’ work has been recognised by numerous national and international research and teaching awards including the Anton Hales Medal for outstanding contributions to research in the Earth Sciences by the Australian Academy of Science and an Australian Award for University Teaching. He was named the 2015 South Australian Scientist of the Year and the 2017 Australian Water Professional of the Year. He is a 2017 Convocation Medallist of Flinders University and a 2017 Biennial Medallist of the Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand.