25 July 2023: A research collaboration focused on water security in Northern Australia is looking to develop improved tools and systems to address industry and end-user challenges for better water planning and sustainability.

The Water Security for Northern Australia (WSNA) program is being delivered through a partnership between the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) and the Northern Australia Universities Alliance.

The three and a half-year program will develop and implement a series of research projects to address problematic issues constraining sustainable water resource utilisation in focal nodes across the north.

The four areas of focus, or focal nodes, are the Gilbert River catchment (QLD), Lower Fitzroy catchment (QLD), Daly River catchment (NT), and the Ord River Irrigation Area (WA).

CRCNA Chair, Sheriden Morris said these nodes were selected based on prior assessments and consultation indicating they’re likely locations for further water resource development.

“The objective of the program is to de-risk the Northern Australia investment and development landscape by improving water sustainability across the region and providing a pathway for the future development of key sectors.

“We’re also committed to demonstrating that economic growth and environmentally healthy and sustainable ecosystems can co-exist,” she said.

WSNA program lead, Professor Damien Burrows from James Cook University said the program will provide more information to decision-makers on water resource availability and allocation, environmental impacts and management, greater economic returns from the use of water resources and greater Indigenous benefit from water resources.

A key factor of economic growth in Northern Australia is the development of water resources, however, there are many considerations involved in establishing sustainable water resource development, especially in a distant, remote, and often harsh environment.

Stakeholders participated in a five-month co-design process to develop node research projects which are focused on water resource availability and allocation; environmental impacts and management; improved economic returns from the use of water resources; and greater Indigenous benefit from water resources.

The WSNA work package also includes research across Northern Australia; water quality and the environment; water availability and the environment; cropping systems and new crops; and supply chain and alternative economies.

The Northern Australia University Alliance is a collaborative initiative that brings together three partner universities with a shared vision for the sustainable development of Northern Australia –   CQUniversity, Charles Darwin University, and James Cook University.

The Water Security for Northern Australia program is the first project for the alliance which strives to develop and retain the crucial skills, education, and research capabilities necessary for the advancement of industries and communities in the north by exploring and progressing strategic issues and opportunities.

Media contacts

Bel Carlson, CRCNA Communications | 0486 012 149

Project partners

Professor Damien Burrows, WSNA program contact damien.burrows@jcu.edu.au

Brook Orr, Director Northern Australia Universities Alliance brook.orr@cdu.edu.au

Additional information

Northern Australia Universities Alliance – https://www.cdu.edu.au/naua

CRCNA Water Security for Northern Australia program – https://www.crcna.local/research/projects/water-security-northern-australia-implementation-phase