Assessing climate change impacts on water supply inflows (PhD Student Research Project)

Assessing climate change impacts on water supply inflows (PhD Student Research Project)

Climate change poses a serious risk to water security. The current drought has resulted in all southern capital city urban reservoir systems in Australia being below 60% capacity.


This situation is likely to be the new normal as already evident in parts of southern Australia. However, it is not the changes in the mean rainfall that are primary concern to water supply. Most of volume filling reservoirs actually comes from heavy rainfall events, and these are increasing due to climate change. So why are our storages lower?

As a result of warmer temperatures, and the duration between rainfall events becoming longer, soils are drier before it rains, so, when it does finally rain, less runoff occurs. Studies which investigate changes to water supply generally only take into account changes in mean precipitation and do not consider the impact of drying soils. However, drying soils are likely to be the largest modifying factor to the runoff that fills our reservoir systems, and further, their modifying effect is a function of the catchment area.

This PhD project would assess water supply storage as a function of climatic change across Australia using a systematic method which accounts for changes in not just mean rainfall, but also change in extreme rainfall, the duration between rainfall events, and the changing seasonality of rainfall. Stochastically simulated rainfall for a warmer climate would be used to model water supply reservoir systems across Australia to build a comprehensive understanding of how climate change will affect water supply. The results of this PhD would identify those water supplies which are at most risk due to climatic change allowing future augmentation to be prioritized.

University:      University of Melbourne

Supervisor:    Conrad Wasko  

Student:          TBA

Project outcomes:

  • Rainfall estimates for a future climate for key areas around Australia
  • Assessment of changes in water supply to key water supply systems
  • Quantification of risk of changes in rainfall and climate change to water supply
  • Methodologies of assessing water security risk that are translatable to other sites

Industry benefits:

  • Quantified results would be enable authorities to prioritize future augmentation
  • Results are transferable to other sites

Please contact Research Capability Manager Carolyn bellamy for further project and student information, or refer to the sponsorship page for 'The Process' document.

WaterRA Contact

Carolyn Bellamy | Research Capability Manager 

Amount being sought

$39,000 over three years

Due Date

30th Jun, 2020