Balancing water across the Australian landscape

Illustration of the water fluxes in the landscape water balance model, showing precipitation, evapotranspiration, shallow- and deep-rooted vegetation, three layers of soil moisture, runoff and deep drainage.

Modelled fluxes in the landscape water balance model

The landscape water balance is the sum of the hydrological processes that keep water moving through a landscape—recharging groundwater, filling streams and flushing water through wetlands. This water balance also determines how much moisture is in the soil—a vital input for seasonal planting and crop production decisions.

Nationally consistent information about the water balance and how it changes is essential for forecasting and managing Australia's water and making sure ecosystems are healthy.

The Bureau's new Australian Landscape Water Balance is an interactive website giving users exactly that. It shows data for key landscape water balance variables—soil moisture, runoff, evapotranspiration, deep drainage and precipitation—which you can aggregate by day, month or year and view to a resolution of 5 by 5 kilometres. You can also get estimates of the current and historical state of key landscape water balance components, as well as the movement of water through the landscape.

'I am not aware of any other continental-scale modelling system like this anywhere in the world,' says Dr Rob Vertessy, Director of the Bureau of Meteorology.

For the first time, decision-makers in industry, government and the community visualise, investigate and download information about the water balance down to the day and at every scale between point location, catchment and the whole Australian continent.

The Australian Landscape Water Balance is the result of close collaboration between the Bureau and CSIRO through the Water Information Research and Development Alliance (WIRADA). The information in the portal comes from a model known as AWRA-L, which provides nationally consistent and robust estimates of Australian landscape water fluxes and stores and simulates the flow of water through the landscape from rain to the movement of water through the vegetation and soil and then out through evapotranspiration, runoff or deep drainage to groundwater. This model just won the Research Innovation Award in the Australian Water Association's ACT Awards for 2015.

Explore the Australian Landscape Water Balance website

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