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RIEL seminar series

Recent increase in Northern Australian streamflow unmatched over the past 600 years

Presenter Phillipa Higgins
Contact person E:
Location CDU Casuarina Campus Yellow 1.1.39 and online
If you wish to attend this seminar online please email for the zoom link.
Zoom links will be sent on the Friday of the seminar.
Open to Public
Aerial view of the bend in a river surrounded by dense forest

There is a lot of interest in developing water resources in the Northern Territory. News stories abound about potential over allocations in the Roper River catchment, and cotton development in the Daly is another contentious issue. In our recent research, we used information from tree rings to reconstruct 600 years of streamflow records for the Daly River and found that high flows over the last several decades are unprecedented in the longer historical record. If we allocate water based on the recent high flows, we risk providing developments with unsustainable amounts of water in the long term, should flows return to the low levels previously experienced. Uncertainty over future trends in monsoon streamflow suggest a precautionary approach to development is warranted.

For further information see

Paper is publicly available at

Philippa Higgins is a current PhD student with the UNSW Water Research Centre and a recipient of one of UNSW’s Scientia PhD scholarships. Her research explores the use of remote tree ring proxies to understand past climate variability in Australia and the wider South Pacific. Philippa was previously awarded an Erasmus scholarship to undertake a joint master degree in Groundwater and Global Change at UNESCO-IHE, and graduated with Distinction in 2017. Philippa has four years’ experience working in governmental roles focussing on climate change and water resource management. She has a long-standing interest in humanitarian engineering, working on projects including the impact of the McArthur River Mine on the community at Borroloola.

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