The University of Adelaide

The University of Adelaide (UoA) is one of Australias oldest and most prestigious universities, and a member of the Group of 8 universities. UoA is recognized internationally for excellence in research, particularly in agriculture, the natural environment, society and social innovation, mineral and energy resources, and sensing and computation disciplines. Its School of Agriculture, Food and Wine is the largest agricultural research institute in the southern Hemisphere. UoA has made significant contributions to addressing the research needs of a global society and has a proven track record in building effective partnerships with industry and government. UoA water researchers span four faculties, two campuses and several discipline groups that frequently collaborate on research questions. Membership includes economic and social scientists from Global Food Studies; soil and agricultural scientists from the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine; ecology and biological scientists from the Environment Institute; and hydrologists, engineers, human technology and mathematical modeling scientists from the School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering. Areas of expertise include: asset management and decision-support optimization; catchment or river system hydrological and climate analysis; environmental water efficiency; water quality; freshwater, soil and biochemical ecology; landscape modelling; governance and/or institutional analyses; market-based reallocation incentives; agricultural science; and social externality resilience and adaptation in agricultural and urban contexts. All members have an excellent reputation for delivering on trans-disciplinary projects and an unparalleled track record in competitive research funding that spans consultancy, contract research and large Australian Research Council projects.

Organisational Capability

  • • Econometric modelling of behavioral drivers and development/assessment of programs
    • Environmental flow scheduling optimization assessment frameworks
    • Prediction/management of natural hazards in variable and changing climates
    • Water security assessments for municipal, agricultural and industrial application
    • Water management decision support, including water distribution asset investigations
    • Socio-economic analysis using qualitative interview/quantitative surveys/focus group techniques
    • Advanced hydrological modelling, hydro-economic modelling, statistical modelling of extremes
    • Transaction cost and institutional analyses
    • Standardized water quality models and risk assessment (e.g. blue-green algae)
    • Remote sensing to collect information on rainfall, soil moisture, and vegetation


  • “Climate change impacts on reservoir water quality” SA Water contract research
    An investigation into the impacts of climate change on the water industry in humid sub-tropical zones was performed. Pathogen transport, dissolved organic carbon loading, turbidity and nutrient delivery may all change as hydrology changes due to climate change. A link between climate change, hydrology, reservoir behavior, water quality and treatment requirements were established to determine how risks to drinking water quality may change in response to changing climate. The results were disseminated to a variety of audiences in the form of literature reviews, fact sheets and webinars.
  • “Water trade, climate change and irrigator adaptability in the Murray-Darling Basin” National Climate Change Adaptation and Research Facility project
    An investigation of the benefits and costs of market-based water reallocation have on farmer and rural community capacity to deal with climate change impacts, using the Millennium drought as an indicator of future effects. Findings indicated beneficial adaptation and risk management outcomes from water markets than would have occurred without them.
  • “Transitioning to a water secure future” Australian Research Council Discovery Project
    This study aims to identify and analyse the impediments in water markets in the Murray-Darling Basin. The identification of impediments in water markets in Australia will have international relevance, lessons learned will be applicable across a wide range of markets and solutions to improve water market efficiency will provide a wide range of net social benefits.
  • Multiple Australian Research Council Fellowships: • Future Fellow (Wheeler 2014-18) FF140100773 • Future Fellow (Cavagnaro 2013-16) FF120100463 • DECRA Fellow
    Wheeler’s project will utilize ABS, HILDA and state death-register statistical data to measure rural community mental health issues over time, and any correlation with periods of water stress. • Cavagnaro’s project aims to modernize soil ecology limitations of scale and integration by assimilating molecular and microbial effects with landscape management decisions specifically on carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling (including riparian zones), but with wider soil science applications; • Loch’s project aims to quantify and determine levels of magnitude involved with water reform governance and institutional transaction costs (e.g. policy design, implementation, monitoring and adjustment), particularly for environmental watering and market arrangements.
  • “Climate Change Priority Project” Goyder Institute Project
    This was a collaborative project between the CSIRO, University of Adelaide, University of South Australia and the Department for the Environment, Water and Natural Resources, with the objective of developing a set of agreed climate change projections for South Australia. The University of Adelaide’s contribution was to conduct a detailed climate change impact assessment to evaluate the future water security for the Onkaparinga catchment—Adelaide’s largest natural water supply source.
  • “Revision of the Australian Rainfall and Runoff (ARR)” Geoscience Australia Project (2009-15) • Project 1: “Extreme rainfall under a future climate” • Project 4: “Continuous simulation of rainfall sequences” • Project 18: “Interaction of coastal processes and severe weather events in the coastal zone”
    ARR has been Australia’s national guideline for the estimation of flood risk for over five decades, and is currently undergoing a detailed revision. The University of Adelaide has conducted extensive research on the revision, including methods to estimate floods in catchments with large reservoirs; methods to estimate flood risk in estuarine catchments; and approaches for addressing the possible increases in extreme rainfall intensity in a warmer climate.