The challenges and opportunities of implementing general purpose groundwater accounting in Australia

Edward Tello*, James Hazelton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Groundwater is a critical resource both worldwide and in Australia and, although groundwater information is central to its effective management, it is generally poor. General Purpose Water Accounting (GPWA), an innovative Australian system developed to account for water resources based on financial accounting principles, has been identified as a possible improvement to groundwater information. As previous studies have mainly considered the application of GPWA to surface water, we investigate groundwater accounting under GPWA. We adopt a theoretical framework of transparency, which is a critical component of accountability. Interviews were conducted within two Australian government departments responsible for groundwater management and reporting. Findings indicate that while GPWA could improve the transparency of groundwater reporting, methodological challenges remain unresolved. These challenges were grouped under two key themes, namely pre-existing data limitations (such as data availability) and translating financial accounting into groundwater (such as the difficulty of determining groundwater assets). Additionally, accountability was not seen as a likely outcome (or even a key objective) of GPWA. Key implications of our study are that further refinement of the standard is required to address the methodological issues identified and more major revisions may be required to achieve the stated objective of enhanced accountability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-301
Number of pages17
JournalAustralasian Journal of Environmental Management
Issue number3
Early online date8 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2018


  • Australia
  • general purpose water accounting
  • groundwater
  • groundwater management
  • transparency
  • Water accounting


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