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Top End Hydrology Lab

Research group
Waterway in open forest with dense green grass understory. Person in distance bending over collecting water samples


The iconic rivers of the Northern Territory provide drinking water, water for agriculture, and sustain environmentally and culturally significant sites. Many of these river systems are fed by vast groundwater sources. The Top End Hydrology Lab studies the physical and chemical components of these critically important surface and groundwater resources.

Specialist expertise and technical skills

We use a unique combination of tracer techniques and numerical modelling to understand the often undisturbed hydrological systems of the Northern Territory, and beyond.

We research:

  • Isotopes and tracer hydrology
  • Groundwater – surface water interactions
  • River biogeochemistry and carbon fluxes
  • Tree water use and groundwater-dependent ecosystems
  • Water resources investigation and management

Meet the team

Group leaders

Research fellows

Technical officers

PhD and MSc candidates

External collaborators

We collaborate with researchers from across Australia, and the world. Some of our key collaborators include:

  • Prof Christian Birkel (University of Costa Rica)
  • Prof Adrian Werner (Flinders University)
  • Dr Anna Lintern (Monash University)
  • Dr Martin Briggs (USGS)
  • A/Prof David Butman (University of Washington)
  • Dr Danlu Guo (Australian National University)
  • A/Prof Marcus Wallin (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)
  • A/Prof Barret Kurylyk (Dalhousie University)
  • Prof Ian Cartwright (Monash University)
  • Dr Tanya Doody (CSIRO)

Why this research is important

Water is vital to life in the NT, sustaining culturally and environmentally significant rivers and springs, and providing water for towns and industry. With the desire to develop water resources in northern Australia, and with the potential impacts of climate change, improving our understanding of the NT’s precious water resources is important. Our work sheds light on often complex and poorly understood hydrological systems.

Key projects

Developing Northern Australia’s water security

The overarching goal of this program is to improve the understanding of water resources in northern Australia to facilitate sustainable development. The program is partnering with James Cook University and Central Queensland University, as well as numerous external partners including the Northern Territory and Western Australian governments. 
Funding: Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia
Lead: D. Irvine

The role of streams in the Australian carbon cycle

Two ARC-funded projects seek to determine the amount of terrestrial carbon that leaks into rivers across Australia. By integrating measurements of aquatic carbon export and estimates of terrestrial carbon productivity from observatories of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN), we aim to refine the net carbon sequestration potential for Australia. These projects are in partnership with the University of Washington (United States), the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Monash University and CSIRO. 
Funding: Australian Research Council (DECRA; Discovery Project)
Lead: C. Duvert

Water resources use and management in the Burdekin River

This project is investigating water resources use and management in the Lower Burdekin Delta, Queensland, with a focus on sustaining intensive agriculture through droughts and floods. The project is being conducted in collaboration with Flinders University, Monash University, Queensland University of Technology, with Lower Burdekin Water as the industry partner. 
Funding: Australian Research Council (Linkage Project)
Lead: D. Irvine

Understanding tree water sources in the Roper and Victoria River catchments

This project assesses the water needs of tree communities around spring areas of the upper Roper and Victoria River catchments. Using isotopic techniques to identify sources of tree water, the project will help predict the potential impacts of water resource development in the NT.
Funding: CSIRO Land & Water
Lead: C. Duvert

Hydrostratigraphy and hydrogeology of the Western Davenport region

This project will improve the understanding of the hydrostratigraphy and hydrogeology of the Western Davenport region, leading to the production of an updated groundwater flow model to facilitate groundwater management and protection of groundwater dependent ecosystems. The project is being conducted in collaboration with the NT Government, Flinders University and CloudGMS. 
Funding: National Water Grid Authority
Lead: D. Irvine

More info

Dylan Irvine
Clem Duvert

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