Chris Smitt

Quote To Live By: “Imagination is everything. It’s the preview of life’s coming attractions.” -Albert Einstein


  • Managed aquifer recharge (MAR)
  • Coal seam/shale gas water management
  • Climate change adaptation and risk management in relation to water planning, management and use
  • Legislative, regulatory and administrative arrangements for groundwater
  • Groundwater resource appraisals
  • Analytical and numerical groundwater modelling
  • Groundwater investigation in complex fractured rock and sedimentary basins
  • Deep bore installation supervision (up to 600 m below ground level).


  • Full Profile

    Chris is a principal hydrogeologist with over 14 years’ experience in both private and public sector within Australia and the Middle East. His main areas of interest are hydrogeology, managed aquifer recharge (MAR) and climate change impacts on water resources.

    Chris began his career as a meteorologist with the Weather Channel before becoming a research hydrogeologist with CSIRO Land & Water.  Since 2006, Chris has worked as a hydrogeologist in the private industry and is responsible for business development, staff mentoring and project delivery of large scale, technically and logistically complex projects within the coal seam gas (CSG) and public groundwater resource sector of Australia.

    During this time, Chris has been awarded the Best Young Scientist at the 9th Murray Darling Basin Commission Groundwater Workshop for work on determining sources of salt and mobilisation processes in the Mt Lofty Ranges, South Australia. He was also an invited guest lecturer at Bonn University, Bonn, Germany where he presented work on “engineering solutions to manage saline dependant and affected ecosystems in South-Western Victoria”.

    Currently, Chris manages the Australian Water Resources team and serves on several groundwater industry groups in the Asia Pacific region.


    • Bachelor of Science (Honours, Hydrogeology and Geophysics), Flinders University, Adelaide.


    Professional Affiliations

    • International Association of Hydrogeologists
    • National Groundwater Association
    • Australian Institute of Geoscientists.


    Key Experience

    Coal Seam Gas Experience

    Project Manager for the Roma Managed Aquifer Recharge Scheme | Santos 

    Senior project manager and technical lead for the Roma Managed Aquifer Recharge Scheme valued at $18M over 2 years. The project initially involved a trial in South-East Queensland which will ultimately lead to (pending regulatory approval) the injection of approximately 20-30ML/d of treated CSG water to re-pressurise high beneficial use aquifers of the Great Artesian Basin.

    Chris managed a team of geologists and engineers to design an engineering system to take associated water, treated through reverse osmosis, and injecting into an aquifer which supplies a large rural city with potable water.  The design and drilling of injection well field, with pumping tests and hydrochemical analysis was also undertaken.

    Project Manager for the Gunnedah Managed Aquifer Recharge Scheme | Santos 

    Project manager and technical hydrogeologist to assess the viability and risks of a proposed managed aquifer recharge scheme in the Gunnedah-Oxley basin, NSW. The project involved assessing the hydrogeological properties of the region, developing a numerical model to estimate impacts, and undertaking a risk assessment and priority matrix to define priority areas for MAR.

    Project Director for the Narrabri Managed Aquifer Recharge Scheme | Santos

    Project director of a proposed MAR scheme where treated CSG water would be discharged in to the base of a deep alluvial creek system in the Narrabri region, NSW. The project involved geophysical transect to determine the storage capacity of the system as well as laboratory analysis of core samples to determine geochemical compatibilities and surface water / groundwater interactions. Liaison with the NSW Office of Water was also a key consideration of the project with all approved outputs being used to assist in the procurement and detailed design of surface infrastructure to trial a MAR

    Project Manager for the Scotia Managed Aquifer Recharge Scheme | Santos

    Senior project manager and technical lead for the Scotia Managed Aquifer Recharge Scheme. The project involved an assessment of the groundwater conditions underneath the site, including, coring 500m of aquifer material with XRD/XRF analysis, design and supervision of large diameter, deep injection wells, pumping tests, geochemical compatibility modeling, and detailed design criteria for the procurement of surface infrastructure. The project was undertaken in accordance with the National Water Quality Management Strategy guidelines for Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR), published in July 2009.

    Project Manager for the Review of Queensland Draft CSG Regulatory Guideline | Santos

    Provided strategic input in the Queensland Government draft CGG guidelines for water management. The project also involved collaboration from other industry partners as well as the CSIRO.

    Project Manager for the Surat Basin Flow and Solute Transport Numerical Model | Santos

    Project manager for the development of a flow and solute transport numerical model. The model was designed to simulate cumulative impacts of a proposed MAR scheme in the Roma CSG field and its potential impact on surrounding landholders and town water supply bores. The model was also used to inform injection pressure calculations and pipe diameter sizing for the EPCM contractor to factor in to the engineering detail design.

    Hydrogeological Assessments and Audits

    Project Manager for the Canberra Managed Aquifer Recharge Scheme | Federal Treasury 

    Project manager and technical hydrogeologist to assist the ACT Government to reduce the demand on the mains water supply, by 12% by 2013 and 25% by 2023. This was partly achieved by stormwater harvesting, storage and recovery as a means to help the ACT Government achieve these targets.

    In order to identify suitable areas for this type of MAR scheme to occur, the project involved exploratory geophysics, groundwater bore design and installation, geochemical modelling and other hydraulic information to assist in the procurement and detailed design of surface infrastructure to trial a MAR scheme in the northern suburbs of Canberra. The project found one of the highest yielding parts of the Canberra Formation investigated to date (>50 l/s) which allowed the ACT Government to store and recover more water than anticipated.

    Project Manager for the Western Metropolitan Melbourne MAR Feasibility | Melbourne Water

    Project manager for a regional review on the feasibility for a 1-2GL/year type MAR schemes across western metropolitan Melbourne for irrigation and third pipe in new suburb developments.  The initial phase was to complete a desktop assessment of the groundwater conditions at a number of strategic distribution locations in the region, including the presence, quality and depth of groundwater (both in the shallow and deeper aquifers and movement between these aquifers) and to assess the suitability of these aquifers for the storage and extraction of captured water. The desktop assessment was undertaken in accordance with the National Water Quality Management Strategy guidelines for Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR), published in July 2009.  The final phase of the project focused on the most promising locations, based on the outcomes of the Entry Level and Stage 1 Risk Assessment, and collecting site specific data and conceptualising the potential MAR scheme with the groundwater conditions to develop an understanding of the key data gaps and work required to progress a MAR scheme in the area.

    Project Manager for Securing Sustainable Groundwater for Aspire Zone | Aspire Zone Doha, Qatar.

    The Leisure Land precinct adjacent to Aspire Zone in Doha, Qatar was irrigated with potable water supplied by Khara-Maa.  Due to high costs and the possibility of Khara-Maa tightening supply, Aspire Zone wished to replace or augment this supply with a suitable supply of groundwater.  As such, a hydrogeological study was untertaken to characterise the quality and quantity of groundwater that can be extracted and to design an extraction regime.  Chris project managed a series of hydrogeological investigations on the proposed site. This included a desktop analysis of the characteristics and history of the aquifer and surrounding area. Drilling, completion and sampling of 13 boreholes. Pumping tests and analysis to determine optimum well yield and aquifer parameters; Development of a numerical model of the physical resource and to test various well-field configurations that may be used in the development of the groundwater resource.

    Assistant auditor of the LGL Ballarat groundwater monitoring system | Lihir Gold Limited

    Assistant auditor to conduct an audit of the groundwater monitoring system at LGL Ballarat as part of EPA Works Approval No WA63536. The works approval is to allow LGL Ballarat Pty Ltd to store recycled brine within the Terrible Gully Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) at the Woolshed Gully Site in Ballarat. The audit objectives were to the assess the adequacy of the groundwater monitoring program, and to provide recommendations for any additional measures required to ensure the risk to the beneficial uses is minimised and maintained at an acceptable level

    Project Manager for the Development of an Victorian Index of Groundwater Condition | Dept of Sustainability and Environment

    Project manager and lead hydrogeologist for developing the Victorian Index of Groundwater Condition (IGC). An online user friendly tool which identified which aquifers within Victoria were under stress from either human or environmental factors. The project involved a trial in six aquifers assessing their beneficial use and “naturalness” for groundwater quality, quantity, environmental support and physical characteristics.

    Project Manager for Determining Victoria Groundwater Age for Management Options | Dept of Sustainability and Environment

    In Southern Australia, groundwater became a significant freshwater resource since the onset of the drought in the (mid 1990’s to late 2000’s), with the rates of bore installation and extraction of water from aquifers increasing during this time.  Whilst the drought has lead to many declining groundwater levels across the State of Victoria, it has also facilitated studies involving isotope hydrogeochemistry to better understand surface water / groundwater interactions, groundwater flow paths and age of the resource. Chris was the project manager and lead hydrogeologist to conduct a desktop literature review and collect additional field data involving carbon-14 (14C), tritium (3H), chloride-36, (36Cl) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) dating to determine the ages of the groundwater in “key areas” of Victoria. The results helped set sustainable future allocation limits for groundwater extraction.

    Project Manager for the Yarra Valley Water Hydrogeological and Geophysical Assessment | Coca-Cola Amitil and Yarra Valley Spring Water

    Project manager of a desktop study followed by on-site investigations in the Yarra Valley region of Victoria to identify a new groundwater source which will supplement existing bottled spring water supplies and assist in making amendments to the existing groundwater extraction license on the site. The hydrogeological assessment involved geophysics, baseflow impact calculations into the Don River and surrounding rivers as well as analysis of isotope geochemistry.

    Project engineer for the Residential Development Impact Assessment, New Gisborne | Colanz Pty

    Project engineer involving a desktop assessment, site visit and field investigations to provide Colanz Pty Ltd with technical advice upon the impact of a residential development on the racecourse reserve Marshlands. The project involved drilling, instillation and sampling of 6 licensed groundwater investigation bores. A short term pumping test and analysis was also performed.

    Project Manager for the Investigating the impacts of the Donald Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) on the Richardson River | Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water

    The Donald Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) is situated near the Donald township and the Richardson River and came under question by the Donald Neighbourhood Environment Improvement Plan (NEIP) that operations at the WWTP are having a negative effect on water quality in the Richardson River via leaching of nutrients and contaminants to the watertable, with contaminated groundwater discharging to the river as baseflow. Chris project managed and undertook an investigation whether the WWTP and its operations are resulting in adverse impacts on the river. The project involved the collation of data and site history. A review of the monitoring program, including the sampling methodology to determine reliability of the monitoring results was undertaken and soil infiltration potential was calculated. The assessment concluded that there has been no evidence of treated wastewater impacting the Richardson River via baseflow, however, localised contamination could be identified in other areas of the landscape. Suggested improvements to the current monitoring programs and remedial actions which may mitigate any identified or potential environmental impacts to the River in the future were made.

    Project Manager for the Lake Corangamite Groundwater Modelling | Corangamite Catchment Management Authority

    Lake Corangamite is a terminal lake within the Corangamite River Basin in south western Victoria.  In the past, water has been diverted away from the lake to the Barwon River via the Woady Yaloak diversion scheme.  This resulted in relatively low water levels and increased salinity which in part has been exacerbated by drought conditions over the past decade. Chris project managed and developed a steady-state numerical groundwater model (Modflow) for the target region, encompassing Lakes Corangamite, Weering, Gnarpurt, Beeac, Colac, Murdeduke and Cundare Pool. The model was calibrated to best represent the naturally occurring conditions associated with the major lakes and rivers in the area. A number of scenarios trialing the effects of drought, extraction, land-use and lake level were then run.  Scenario modelling highlighted the changes to groundwater systems, under a number of different environmental conditions. For drought and extraction scenarios recharge was altered to show the effect on groundwater flow conditions by removing/adding water to the system. The effect of lake level modelling found that changing lake levels altered capture zones and flow paths, as well as changing groundwater divides between lake systems.

    Project Manager for the Critical Review of the Warrion WSPA Groundwater Management Plan | Southern Rural Water

    In 2002 the Consultative Committee developed the Warrion Water Supply Protection Area (WSPA) (Groundwater) Management Plan to be submitted to the Minister. The plan acknowledged that the PAV was estimated with a low level of confidence and adopted a PAV of 16,500 ML/yr which is greater than the recommended level set out in 2001. On behalf of the Department of Sustainability and Environment, Chris developed a decisions paper detailing recommendations as to any consequent changes to the plan or the plan prescriptions. The paper provided an assessment of the key technical issues related to the development of the Warrion WSPA groundwater management plan. In particular the assessment will focus on technical studies related to Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems; Surface water and groundwater connectivity; Acid Sulfate Soil potential; and Groundwater level trends incorporating the period 2002 to present.

    Project Manager to determine a new method for assessing the status of dryland salinity across Victoria | Dept of Sustainability and Environment

    The 2000 National Land and Water Resources Audit estimated that 670,000 ha of land was at high risk from shallow water tables (equivalent of high dryland salinity risk) in Victoria. The Audit then predicted that by the year 2050, the risk of dryland salinity in Victoria would increase by over 450%.However, by 2008 only 256,194 ha of mapped dryland salinity existed (this equates to a 76% reduction of the Audit’s prediction for 2008. With this new evidence, Chris project managed a review that assessed the extent and nature of the current dryland salinity risk, identifying and discuss the major factors influencing this and describe the likely future outlook to the year 2015 and 2050 for two areas in Victoria these being the Corangamite Catchment Management Area (CCMA) and the North Central Catchment management Area (NCCMA). The outcomes of the review provided recommendations to DSE on future policy directions for dryland salinity management across the areas and eventually across the State. These were then later adopted in the 2008 Biodeversity white paper.

    Project Manager for the Development of a Framework to Guide Resource Appraisal Decisions for Groundwater | Department of Sustainability and Environment

    Project manager and lead hydrogeologist responsible for constructing a conceptual framework that will guide the process of allocating investment funds in groundwater resource appraisals. The framework is to be developed into a process that can be applied by those seeking to make funding allocations decisions for resource assessments. As such, the framework needs to be of sufficient complexity to capture the important elements of the investment decision, yet simple enough to be readily applied by decision makers.

    Project Manager for the Development of a groundwater and irrigation drainage Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting (MER) plan | Mallee Catchment Management Authority

    Project manager who was responsible the development of a groundwater and irrigation drainage Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting (MER) plan to help identify which parts of the landscape are sufficiently being monitored and those where threats related to groundwater and irrigation drainage are deficient. The project was a large Microsoft Access and GIS database which was accepted by the Mallee CMA in 2006.

    Project Engineer to Determining water and salt balances for the Murray-Darling Basin End-of-Valley target sites | Murray Darling Basin Authority

    The project involved collation of all available flow and electrical conductivity (EC) data for the 32 Murray-Darling Basin End-of-Valley target stations for the benchmark period (1975-2000). Various statistical methodologies were then used to explore the raw data with the use of flow, EC, and saltload exceedence curves.  Estimation of historical stream salinity trends for the benchmark period using the GENSTAT statistical software, and Estimation of historical catchment salt balances for the last 15 years of the benchmark period (1985-2000) was then undertaken. The results were used as a basis for policy development for environmental flow and water allocation issues throughout the Murray-Darling Basin.

    Project Modeller for the Defining Groundwater Flow Systems (GFSs) on the Victorian Volcanic Plains to accurately assess the risks of salinity and impacts of changed land use | Corangamite Catchment Management Authority

    The project involved the development a 3D geological and hydrological numerical model using GMS MODFLOW and ARC Hydro to produce images of the lithology and groundwater chemistry under the Victorian Volcanic Plains (VVP) of western Victoria. The model was then calibrated using water level and chemistry data. The model improved our understanding of the hydrological processes across the VVP and helped delineate where local, intermediate and regional GFS dominate the salinity processes. The model also helped establish the cause(s) of rising salinity trends in the VVP as described in the Corangamite Regional Salinity Action Plan and enabled new targets to be established on saline land to measure the risk to the ecology from either increasing or decreasing salinity as described in the Corangamite Regional Salinity Action Plan.

    Project Engineer for the River Murray Floodplain Impacts Project | Murray Darling Basin Authority

    The project involved interpretation and classification of Landsat TM Satellite Images for different flood events along the South Australian length of the River Murray Floodplain using ERDAS Imagine. Chris then applied these images to a landuse model developed in ARC. The outputs allowed for the estimation of flooding regimes in stressed riverine forests during low river low periods.

    Project Engineer to Determine an Options Analysis for Salinity Management in the Lower Murray of South Australian | Eastern Mt Lofty Ranges NRM Board

    The project involved fieldwork (supervision of drilling operations and instillation of piezometers), within the Mt Lofty sub catchments to collect data used to estimate the total volume of surface runoff from the eastern Mt Lofty sub catchments using the method developed by Zhang et al. (2001). Chris then estimated salt fall-out over the sub catchments and develop topographic indices and if any salinity-flow relationships exist for the sub catchments where gauged data exists and use this to estimate salt balances for all eastern Mt Lofty Ranges sub catchments.

    Project Engineer to Assess the Current and Future Impacts of Land Management Induced Groundwater discharge on Floodplain Health | Murray Darling Basin Authority

    The project involved drilling and installation supervision of over 200 groundwater monitoring bores throughout the length of the South Australian portion of the River Murray floodplain. Chris also sampling of over 200 groundwater monitoring bores and various surface water bodies and undertook analysis of collected data including estimating water contents, groundwater and soil salinity.

    Publications and Conference Papers

    Smitt, C., Vanderzalm, J., Dillon, P., Ife., D and Davidge, S., (2012). Aquifer Recharge to Assist in the Management of Produced CSG Water. in Proceedings of 2012 Annual APPEA Conference, Adelaide.

    Smitt, C., Vanderzalm, J., Dillon, P., Ife., D and Davidge, S., (2011). Aquifer Recharge to Assist in the Management of Produced Coal Seam Gas Water. in Proceedings of 2011 National Groundwater Association Spring Meeting, Baltimore, Maryland.

    Dahlhaus, P., Cox, J., Simmons, C., Smitt, C., (2007). Beyond hydrogeologic evidence: challenging current salinity models in the Corangamite region, Australia. Hydrogeology Journal HJ-2007-0621

    Smitt, C. M., Cox, J. W., Herczeg, A., Wilford, J., Henschke, C., Liddicoat, C., and Walker, G., (2006). The origins, mobilisation and management of salt in the Eastern Mt Lofty Ranges of South Australia. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences.

    Smitt, C., Herczeg, A., Davies, P., and Cox, J (2005). Identifying sources of salt and its mobilisation processes in the Eastern Mt Lofty Ranges, South Australia. in Proceedings of “Where Waters Meet” NZHS-IAH-NZSSS Auckland Conference, New Zealand, 28th November to 2nd December

    Smitt, C., Herczeg, A., Davies, P., and Cox, J (2004).  Identifying sources of salt and its mobilisation processes in the Eastern Mt Lofty Ranges, South Australia.  in Proceedings of 9th Murray-Darling Basin Groundwater Workshop, Febuary, Bendigo.

    Smitt, C., Gilfedder, M., Dawes, W., Petheram, C., Stauffacher, M., and Walker, G., (2001). Modelling the Effectiveness of Recharge Reduction for Salinity Management: Sensitivity to Catchment Characteristics, in Proceedings of Murray-Darling Basin Groundwater Workshop, September, Victor Harbor

    Gilfedder, M., Smitt, C., Zhang, L., and Walker, G., (2001).  Impact of increased recharge on groundwater discharge:  Development and application of a simplified function using catchment parameters, in Proceedings of Murray-Darling Basin Groundwater Workshop, September, Victor Harbor.