Groundwater is a natural resource which enables the activities of many other industries, now a centre dedicated to studying groundwater has put a price on the hugely important resource.

The National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training says the water locked in aquifers beneath Australian soil is worth $34 billion.

That was the figure from a report commissioned this year to look into mining, agriculture and other industries, which rely heavily on the natural supply.

Of the most groundwater-reliant industries, agriculture drinks up about 60 per cent of the annual usage, with mines consuming around 12 per cent, approximately 17 per cent of groundwater is used for manufacturing and 11 per cent for drinking.

“To many people, groundwater is all but invisible, or there as a last resort when surface water runs short. In reality, it drives many of our most productive industries – and if carefully managed can be maintained as a sustainable resource,” says NCGRT Director Professor Craig Simmons.

Putting a dollar value on groundwater supplies helps quantify their importance, and may hopefully encourage some to think about better ways to use it.

“Ours is a hot, dry continent and more than 90 per cent of our fresh water is in fact underground. This is a resource with vast potential, however we do not as yet have a clear idea of its size or how long it takes to recharge. But in a world that is increasingly short of fresh water, it is a major strategic asset,” Prof Simmons says.

The National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training says it is part of a bigger push to involve the vital supplies in planning decisions.

“We're trying to get a sense and pulling it all together of what we're using across the different industries, mining, agriculture and so on - trying to get a sense of what they're worth is at least one part of discussions, strategic planning and so forth,” Simmons said.