FEIT Research Project Database

The impact of climate change on Australia’s water security

Project Leader: Conrad Wasko
Staff: Benjamin Henley, Rory Nathan
Primary Contact: Conrad Wasko (conrad.wasko@unimelb.edu.au)
Keywords: climate change ; hydrology; water resources
Disciplines: Infrastructure Engineering

Australia’s climate is changing but the impact on water supply is largely unknown. On the one hand, extreme rainfalls are expected to increase, resulting in increased inflows into our water supply reservoirs. On the other hand, total rainfalls are expected to decrease, leading to decreased inflow into our water supplies. Complicating these two drivers of water supply is the interaction with changed soil moisture and the seasonality of rainfall shifting towards possibly drier periods further reducing streamflow. All these aspects of change, their interaction, and their impact on water supply is currently poorly understood. This project aims to fill the current knowledge of gap of how Australia's water supplies will change in a future water climate.

Specifically, the project aims to:

  1. Understand how the seasonality of Australia's rainfall is changing and the impact on resulting discharge volumes. This will combine knowledge from historical data and climate model simulations.
  2. Create ensembles of the change in rainfall seasonality for key catchments around Australia. In doing so, identify the aspects of rainfall that are changing across Australia. Are we getting longer dry spells for example? Or is rainfall becoming more frequent?
  3. Simulate the impact of the above changes in rainfall on water supply for key catchments around Australia using stochastic weather generation and rainfall-runoff modelling. Students are expected to have a background in hydrology and ideally a background in statistical analysis.

Students will be expected to perform significant computer programming tasks and analysis with large data sets using Python, R, Matlab or similar.

Successful applicants will be awarded a tax-free stipend ($31,200) and fee offset scholarship. Applications should familiarise themselves with the entry requirements to the PhD program at the University of Melbourne.

Excellent English language writing and communication skills are required. A working proficiency in another language(s) will be an asset. Industry/practitioner experience is preferred, and female and indigenous applicants are highly encouraged to apply. Interested applicants should email the nominated contact for the relevant project with a statement on their motivation to undertake a PhD in this topic along with a CV and transcripts of previous degrees. This is necessary to understand whether you will be competitive for a scholarship and admission into the PhD program.