A NEW Toowoomba research group has been launched to build a clearer picture of the size and quality of the state's water.
The Groundwater Research Group is an initiative of the National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture and Faculty of Engineering and Surveying at the University of Southern Queensland.
It will conduct independent research to investigate the impact that the coal seam gas, mining and agriculture industries have on this precious resource and be led by professor Jochen Bundschuh and Dr Elad Dafny - both international leaders in the field of underground water research.
Prof Bundschuh said there was a large gap in the knowledge surrounding the underground water in the region.
"It's important that we build a more complete picture of the sub-surface water," Prof Bundschuh said.
"At the moment, no-one knows exactly what the outcomes will be in relation to the use of groundwater by industries like the coal seam gas industry. But it is very important that these investigations are done by a completely independent body, such as a university."
Dr Dafny said by making use of technology and expertise it was possible to trace the path of a water droplet from rainfall, river flows and irrigation down through the earth and into the deep, underground aquifers.
He said one of the most important research goals was to determine the recharge rate and connectivity of underground aquifers in order to work out exactly how much water could be withdrawn without having negative long-term impacts.
Prof Bundschuh said Queensland's Great Artesian Basin was one of the three biggest underground water resources in the world so it was vitally important to determine how it could be used at a sustainable level.
"If we contaminate this Basin there is no way to reverse it so as a society we need to be very careful," he said.