The Groundwater Systems Research (GSR) program provides:

  • a focus for groundwater research
  • multidisciplinary expertise and applications
  • opportunities for joint studies and collaboration.

GSR was established to provide a focus for groundwater-related research both within QUT and externally via collaboration with government, industry and private sectors. Important outcomes of the program are multidisciplinary projects based on genuine integration.

GSR supports joint studies and collaboration between researchers in the geosciences, hydrology, hydrogeochemistry, IT and computing (high-performance computing), mathematical sciences and environmental engineering.

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Research leader
Research team
QUT External collaborators

Organisational unit
Lead unit Institute for Future Environments Other units
Research areas
hydrogeology, hydrochemistry, isotope hydrology, conceptual models, 3D visualisation, groundwater, geoscience, hydrology, environment, engineering, basins


For more information contact Professor Malcolm Cox.



Understanding groundwater

Australia is a dry country and has a population concentrated in coastal zones. This puts much of the nation's highly variable water supply at risk of becoming over-exploited or degraded.

Many of the water resources are already stressed due to excessive use, drought, climate impacts and the demands of supporting rapidly growing population centres. The recent drought from 1998 to 2009 resulted in very low dam levels, an awareness of the limitations on water resources, and a greater appreciation of groundwater, its finite nature, and the need to manage it. This was notably the case in South East Queensland.

Irrigated catchments in particular require groundwater system understanding to support effective management, which includes knowledge of processes such as recharge, stream flow, links to stream and geological formations. Monitoring of water levels and quality and measurement of use are highly important.

Approach to essential groundwater management

To help meet future water needs, QUT is investigating how these impacts are affecting the hydrological cycle, surface and groundwater resources, environmental flows and freshwater biodiversity.

The interaction of water resources, natural environmental systems and the geological framework must be well understood. Studies at a wide range of scales are needed, from the very local to regional basin-wide. Applications are directed to water resource supply, environmental conditions and coastal settings, as well as groundwater systems related to basin resources.

The link between groundwater and resources is of fundamental importance to sustainable utilisation of resources within sedimentary basins, such as coal seam gas (CSG), shale gas and coal deposits. The considerations are for both the surface environment and the condition of associated groundwater aquifers.

Groundwater basins of Queensland

Surat Basin

The Surat Basin is a sub-basin of the Great Artesian Basin. One project has been to develop a regional basin model for Arrow Energy. This is an integrated geological/conceptual hydrogeological model in 3D incorporating solid geometry, all drillholes, plus groundwater piezometric surfaces. The model domain extends 450km NW-SE and 270km NE-SW, and includes much of the Condamine alluvium.

Walloon Coal Measures

This formation (WCM) is the main target for coal seam gas (CSG) in the Surat Basin. It consists of six recognised interbedded units of coal and sandstone. Units are of variable thickness and permeability, and all contain some groundwater, mostly poor quality. The total sequence can be 200-300m thick.

Galilee and Eromanga Basins

A project funded by Exoma Energy is developing a sub-regional basin model for the Galilee Basin and the overlying Eromanga Basin, which is part of the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) and contains important artesian aquifers. The model domain is centred around Longreach in Western Queensland and is 300 km W-E and 275 km N-S. The 3D visualisation model (GVS) will incorporate all available data as well as new company-generated information.

Clarence-Moreton Basin

The Clarence-Moreton Basin (CMB) to the east is connected to the Surat Basin. Significant surface water catchments overlying the CMB include:

  • Condamine Valley
  • Lockyer Valley
  • Bremer Valley
  • Teviot Brook Catchment.

The CMB extends from South East Queensland into New South Wales, and underlies the Richmond and Clarence River catchments.

Hydrogeologically, the CMB hosts a variety of different aquifer types (alluvial, volcanic and sedimentary aquifers), which are connected to varying degrees.

Regional groundwater research on the CMB was part of a QUT Postdoctoral Fellowship by Dr Matthias Raiber, funded by National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT), and now continuing with CSIRO. The project developed a basin-wide 3D geological model, incorporating hydrogeological, hydrogeochemical and isotopic data.

Particular aspects of these projects include:

  • development of 3D geological models (GoCAD)
  • assessment of flood-related recharge to alluvial aquifers in the Lockyer Valley and Condamine Catchment using 3D visualisation and environmental tracers
  • groundwater chemistry baseline study using multivariate statistical analysis of water chemistry data (from DNRM database)
  • study of interactions between GAB, volcanic and alluvial aquifers using water chemistry, hydrogeological data and environmental tracers (stable isotopes, 87Sr/86Sr, 3H and radiocarbon)
  • integration of all data to form a basin-wide 3D hydrogeological conceptual model.

The 3D approach is capable of integrating multiple types of information (topography, geological, hydraulic, water chemistry and spatial) into a single representation, which provides valuable insights into the major factors controlling aquifer processes.


Current research projects

  • Combining hydrochemical and isotopic techniques to define river – alluvium – bedrock hydrological connectivity in a South–East Queensland catchment
  • The Cressbrook Creek alluvial aquifer system, southeast Queensland: conceptual hydrogeological model, hydrological processes and response to flood events
  • Subregional hydrogeology, stratigraphy and hydrochemistry of the Galilee and Eromanga Basins: identification of aquifers, aquitards and coal seams.
  • Hydrological processes of Galilee and Eromanga Basins and relation to hydraulic properties of aquifers, aquitards and coal seams.
  • Use of hydro-geochemistry and isotope hydrology to assess interactions between bedrock - and alluvial aquifers in the Upper Condamine Valley, Southeast Queensland.
  • Condamine headwaters aquifer systems: characterisation, definition of recharge and connectivity by hydrochemistry and isotope hydrology within a 3D model framework.

Completed research projects

  • Hydrogeological framework, conceptual and numerical groundwater flow model of Laidley Creek catchment, Queensland, Australia
  • Groundwater/surface water conceptual, hydrological and water quality models: mid-Brisbane River and subcatchments
  • Visualisation planning tool for the Bribie Island groundwater system
  • Environmental geochemistry of iron (Fe) in a forested coastal catchment, Poona Creek, South East Queensland
  • Organic compounds in produced waters from coal seam gas wells: a case study from the Surat and Bowen Basins.
  • A catchment modelling approach integrating surface groundwater processes, land use and distribution of nitrogen: Elimbah Creek, South East Queensland
  • TRaCK - Howard River Catchment groundwater system: preliminary visualisation
  • Implications of Using Purified Recycled Water as an Adjunct to Groundwater Resources for Irrigation in the Lockyer
  • Visualisation of groundwater systems to support management. Application to a large sand island, North Stradbroke Island
  • Tamborine Mountain community-based groundwater/surface water investigation
  • Groundwater visualisation tools project - Upper Condamine Region


GSR's collaboration with external organisations is a critical aspect of its capacity building within Australia's groundwater community.


QUT has collaborated with CSIRO Land and Water on various groundwater systems projects in coastal settings and catchments, especially in conceptual models with 3D visualisation and integration of hydrochemistry and isotope hydrology. Ongoing collaborative projects with Dr Matthias Raiber and colleagues at Dutton Park, Brisbane, are focused on groundwater systems in sedimentary basin settings.

National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training

GSR is a member of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT). Involvement includes research activities, and a membership of Program 1 based in UNSW.

Queensland Water Commission

GSR has collaborated with the Queensland Water Commission (QWC, now OGIA) to develop a large regional 3D visualisation that represents the geology and hydrogeology in the Surat and southern Bowen basins to support communication to stakeholders.

Arrow Energy Ltd and Exoma Energy Ltd

GSR collaborates with Arrow Energy in the Surat Basin, Southern Queensland, and Exoma Energy Ltd in the Galilee Basin, central Queensland, to produce a visualisation of their current hydrogeological and groundwater models. The visualisations are used for scientific assessment and for public and stakeholder consultation.

Department of Natural Resources and Mines

GSR interacts with the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DNRM), which involves a number of data-sharing projects in Queensland including catchments with intensive irrigation, coastal zones and sand islands. Specific projects with DERM/DNRM funding involve collaboration with Queensland Acid Sulphate Soils InvestigationTeam (QASSIT) in coastal aquifers, their water quality, vulnerability and links to marine settings.

Geological Survey of Queensland

GSR collaborates with Geological Survey of Queensland (GSQ) within the DNRM in groundwater resources and sedimentary basins in relation to coal seam gas management.


GSR is investigating groundwater and surface water interactions in the lower Lockyer and middle Brisbane River areas for Seqwater, which includes creating comprehensive 3D visualisation models of the areas collaboratively. Previously GSR undertook investigations for Seqwater/Water Grid Manager focusing on 3D visualisation models of groundwater systems to support management in areas such as North Stradbroke Island, Bribie Island and the upper Brisbane River catchment


GSR is involved in ongoing studies of other catchments that test groundwater and surface water linkages, water quality, environmental implications and relation to land use in conjunction with SEQCatchments and various local governments (e.g. Moreton Bay Regional Council, Sunshine Coast Regional Council, Brisbane City Council and Redland City Council).

Forest Plantations Queensland

GSR has investigated forest hydrology, shallow groundwaters and runoff, nutrients and other potential impacts of plantation practices in their SEQ forests for various projects with Forest Plantations Queensland (FPQ).

National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training

GSR conducted collaboration between QUT and University of New South Wales (UNSW) via the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT). Program 1 of the NCGRT is based at UNSW (Program 1: Innovative Characterisation of Aquifers and Aquitards). QUT is a member of NCGRT and Malcolm Cox is a CI in Program 1.

Urban Water Security Research Alliance

GSR has undertaken collaborative projects with CSIRO in the Lockyer Valley with funding from Urban Water Security Research Alliance (UWSRA).

Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge

GSR has collaborated on projects on the visualisation of conceptual hydrogeological models that have also been developed through Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) with Griffith University for the Howard East, Northern Territory and Condamine areas.


Groundwater Visualisation System software

Groundwater Visualisation System (GVS) is a versatile software package that can produce 3D visualisation of geological and hydrological systems.

The 3D framework enables development of conceptual hydrogeological models. This format allows identification of temporal groundwater and surface water processes, and the time-space relationships. The ability to animate time-series data, interrogate and interact with the 3D model enables a greater understanding of the components, infrastructure and functions of groundwater systems.

GVS is a flexible and user-friendly groundwater management tool, developed by QUT and based on open-source software which can be readily redistributed.

GVS models are customised for specific project requirements. The models developed integrate a wide range of spatial and time-series data from both surface and subsurface settings.

QUT is currently collaborating with the University of Ballarat in Victoria to combine this 3D capability within their online system VVG (Visualising Victoria's Groundwater).

Potential application areas

  • Groundwater and surface water resource investigation and management
  • Integration of water resources to land use
  • Coal seam gas operations, groundwater understanding and management
  • Groundwater dependent ecosystem (GDE) assessment
  • Open pit mining, quarrying operations and hydrology relations
  • Regional modelling of sedimentary basins and groundwaters
  • Sand island and coastal groundwater system modelling
  • Environment and climatic relations to hydrological systems


For further information and discussions on the individual requirements, types of data available, schedules and quotations, email gvs@qut.edu.au.


Cox, M.E., James, A., Hawke, A., Raiber, M. 2013. Groundwater Visualisation System (GVS): a software framework for integrated display and interrogation of conceptual hydrogeological models, data and time-series animation, Journal of Hydrology, 491, 56-72.

Carbonate speciation tool

This spreadsheet calculates carbonate speciation using carbonate equilibrium equations at standard conditions (T=25°C) with ionic strength corrections. You will typically be able to calculate the different carbonate species by entering total alkalinity and pH. Additional tools are included to calculate the Langelier Index for calcium and the sodium adsorption ratio (SAR) of the water.

A feedback form must be completed before downloading this tool.