Australia\'s groundwater directly contributes 6.8 billion AU dollars (6.6 billion U.S. dollars) to the country\'s economy each year, a new study by Deloitte Access Economics revealed on Monday. A report, commissioned by the National Center for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT), shows for the first time the role groundwater plays in the country\'s economy. According to the NCGR, the Deloitte Access Economics study is the first attempt ever made to quantify the value of Australia\'s groundwater. The study also found Australia\'s groundwater supports industry worth 34 billion AU dollars a year from mining, food production and manufacturing. Current average annual groundwater use in Australia is about 3, 500 gigalitres (GL). \"Increasing surface water scarcity in Australia in recent years has seen a growing reliance on groundwater use,\" the report said. \"Despite the growing importance of groundwater use, there is a lack of understanding of its economic value and how dependent our nation is on groundwater.\" NCGRT director, Professor Craig Simmons said some countries have overestimated their groundwater reserves and are mining them unsustainably. \"Major economies including China, India, the U.S. and Middle Eastern countries face critical groundwater scarcities which may imperil their future growth,\" he said. He believes groundwater will play a larger role in the Australian economy in the next few decades than it does now. \"It is currently directly valued at about 7 billion AU dollars a year, however it could easily contribute significantly more to the Australian economy in the future,\" he added.