18.2 Groundwater outflow to outside region at coast

Supporting information

The volume presented in the water accounting statements (136,022 ML) represents the regional groundwater flow out of the Melbourne region through the major sedimentary and basalt aquifers at the coastline. This outflow may or may not specifically represent groundwater discharge to the sea.

In general, the dominant direction of groundwater flow in the Melbourne region is from the recharge area in the fractured rock aquifers in the north, northwest, and northeast towards the Port Phillip Bay and Westernport in the south.

In the 2013 Account, an improved quantification method as detailed in the 'Quantification Approach' was applied for groundwater outflow to outside region at coast.  Applying the new methodology, the volume for the 2011-12 year is calculated to be 136,729 ML in comparison to 121,259 ML calculated using the previous methodology.

In accordance with the Australian Water Accounting Standards 1, comparative year volumes must be restated in the statements if there is a prior period error or a change in line item presentation. Comparative year volumes are not required to be restated if there is a change in scope or methodology, or subsequent data availability for the quantification of a line item.

Quantification approach

Data source

Port Phillip Catchment Management Authority groundwater model (Department of Sustainability and Environment 2010), hydraulic conductivity and aquifer thickness; Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries, bore locations: groundwater level data, and aquifer attribution.

Provided by

The Bureau of Meteorology.


Groundwater flow was calculated using a simple geographic information system (GIS) approach based on Darcy's law. Groundwater levels were interpolated for each season from reduced groundwater levels measured at monitoring bores using kriging with external drift and the 9" Digital Elevation Model as an external driver taking into account the effect of the coastline on groundwater levels following the methodology presented in Peterson (2011).  Seasonal groundwater flow grids were derived from groundwater level grids, aquifer thickness, and hydraulic conductivity using a modification of the ArcGIS Darcy Velocity tool. Groundwater flow across selected flow boundaries (see the following figure) was then calculated using a simple GIS analysis and seasonal values were aggregated to reporting period.

Groundwater flow boundaries
Groundwater flow boundaries

Assumptions, limitations, caveats and approximations

Regional flow was estimated for layers 1–5 of the Port Phillip groundwater model (Department of Sustainability and Environment 2010), which represent the sedimentary and basalt aquifers with the exclusion of the basement (layer 6). These productive aquifers are considered to be the most hydraulically conductive units and flow in other units is assumed to be insignificant.

Consistent with the groundwater model report (Department of Sustainability and Environment 2010) groundwater flow in the Nepean Peninsula was calculated only for Layer 1. It was modelled as a fresh water lens in the highly permeable unconfined aquifer using the same GIS tool.

Groundwater levels were estimated by assuming that all five hydrogeological layers within the Port Phillip groundwater model region are hydraulically interconnected. This assumption facilitated the interpolation of a groundwater potential surface from groundwater level measurements, as these measurements were limited in number. Groundwater levels were also assumed equal to 0 meters (Australian Height Datum) at the coastline. These assumptions were used to generate seasonal groundwater level surfaces across the sedimentary area.

The through-flow boundaries considered in the estimations are indicated in the previous figure. Flow across the remaining boundaries was assumed negligible on an annual basis because aquifer properties like hydraulic conductivity limit flow (e.g. fractured rock basement). The northern and northeast boundaries represent a groundwater divide with no through-flow, or groundwater flow was approximately parallel to the boundary (e.g., western boundary).


Uncertainty information

The uncertainty in the field measured data (e.g., groundwater levels, hydraulic conductivity) was unspecified and unknown; the impact of such uncertainty on the groundwater flow was not estimated.

The regional flow estimations were based on the interpolated groundwater level grids produced using kriging with external drift and the 9" Digital Elevation Model as an external driver following the methodology presented in Peterson et al. (2011). Use of different interpolation methods may impact the values of the groundwater level grids and hence the estimated regional flow.

Groundwater flow was estimated for a simplified boundary constructed from a series of line segments. Groundwater flow across this boundary was calculated using the method described above. The uncertainty surrounding this simplification was not analysed.