River modelling for Northern Australia

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Petheram, Cuan ORCID ID icon; Hughes, Donna; Rustomji, Paul; Smith, Kathryn; Van Niel, Tom ORCID ID icon; Yang, Ang



125 pp

The Northern Australia Sustainable Yields Project marks the first time a consistent, robust and transparent assessment has been carried out across the three jurisdictions of northern Australia, and the first time models have included an assessment of possible future climate implications. Four scenarios were assessed as part of the project: • historical climate (1930 to 2007) and current development (Scenario A) • recent climate (1996 to 2007) and current development (Scenario B) • future climate (~2030) and current development (Scenario C) • future climate (~2030) and likely future development (Scenario D). The results are contained within three drainage division reports (i.e. Northern North-East Coast Drainage Division, Gulf of Carpentaria Drainage Division and the Timor Sea Drainage Division). Accompanying these drainage division reports are a series of CSIRO Water for a Healthy Country Flagship Science Reports, which contain supporting technical material. This report provides technical material in support of the river system modelling results presented in Section 3.6 of the regional chapters of the drainage division reports. River system models encapsulate descriptions of current infrastructure, water demands and water management and sharing rules and can be used to assess the implications of the changes in inflows described in the rainfall-runoff section on the reliability of water supply to users. They may also be used to support water management planning by assessing the trade-offs between supplies to various competing categories of users. Given the time constraints of the project and the need to link the assessments to jurisdiction water planning processes, it was necessary to use the river system models currently used by these agencies. Where information on infrastructure, water demand, water management and sharing rules or future development were not provided, a river modelling section was not warranted. Six river system models were used in this project; a MIKE BASIN model for the lower Ord River catchment, a simple single node reservoir model for the Darwin River Dam, and Integrated Quantity and Quality Models for the Leichhardt, Flinders, Gilbert and Mitchell river catchments. In addition to the river system models a coupled groundwater-hydraulic model (technically not a river system model) was used for the Daly river catchment. The description and setup of the Daly model is detailed in an accompanying report. For the river system models and the Daly river model a variety of metrics are reported, including water availability, level of consumptive use and storage behaviour of spills. A collective summary of the key results is provided in this report. Detailed results are contained within the drainage division reports. All the rivers examined in this report are gaining rivers, that is their mean annual flow increases towards the coast and is highest at the end-of-system. It should be noted, however, that not all of the water at the most downstream gauge is accessible for consumptive use. This is because there are few intermediate and large potential reservoir locations. The Gulf of Carpentaria in particular is mostly flat and has broad coastal plains so there are few potential reservoir locations in the lower reaches of this division. Ungauged inflows constitute the majority of flow in all catchments. In the Leichhardt, Gilbert and Mitchell, large ungauged flows occur downstream of the last gauge. In all catchments, the mean annual flow under Scenario CNmid is similar to Scenario AN. In the Gilbert and Flinders rivers, mean annual flows along the transect are less under Scenario BN than under Scenario AN. In the Ord and Daly rivers, however, mean annual flow is considerably higher under Scenario BN than under Scenario AN or Scenario CNwet. Hence, extreme caution should be exercised if future management decisions are to be based on hydrological data from the recent climate only. The Integrated Quantity and



River modelling, northern Australia, climate change, runoff, streamflow

Surfacewater Hydrology

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© Copyright CSIRO 2009

Water for a Healthy Country National Research Flagship. A report to the Australian Government from the CSIRO Northern Australia Sustainable Yields Project


Technical Report (Author)


ISSN 1835-095

Petheram, Cuan; Hughes, Donna; Rustomji, Paul; Smith, Kathryn; Van Niel, Tom; Yang, Ang. River modelling for Northern Australia. CSIRO: CSIRO; 2009. csiro:EP113488. https://doi.org/10.4225/08/584af2fb01811

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