The Great Artesian Basin is an important water resource. It must be carefully managed by all Basin jurisdictions as well as the Commonwealth and stakeholders. This will ensure water security for a large part of Australia.
About the Great Artesian Basin
The Great Artesian Basin is one of the largest underground freshwater resources in the world. It is Australia’s largest groundwater basin. It lies beneath parts of the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, and New South Wales. It includes the Eromanga, Surat, and Carpentaria geological basins.
The Basin spans almost 1.7 million square kilometres (over one-fifth of the Australian continent) and has a storage capacity of 64,900 million ML. It connects with the Murray–Darling Basin and the Lake Eyre Basin
The Basin as a resource
Basin water emerges through cracks in the rock and flows into springs, creeks and rivers. This creates a permanent water source even during dry periods. Most springs and leakages occur on the edges of the Basin where water is close to the surface.
The Basin generates approximately $13 billion per year. It is a vital resource for 180,000 people, 7,600 businesses and 120 towns.
It has enabled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to occupy dry inland areas of Australia for more than 60,000 years. Also allowing for communities to maintain cultural, social and spiritual connections with the springs and their associated ecological communities and landscapes.
Uncontrolled water use
Uncontrolled water flow from bores and bore drains reduces water pressure and volume. This threatens groundwater-dependent ecosystems and limits access to artesian water by pastoralists.
It has also become difficult for new water users in or near the Basin to access groundwater resources.
Basin water wastage also damages the environment through:
- reduced pressure in some naturally occurring artesian springs
- encouragement of the spread of pest plants and animals
- land and water salinisation.
Up to 95% of water can be wasted through evaporation and seepage, even in well-maintained drains.
Strategic Management Plan
The new Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan is now available.
The Plan proposes a principles-based approach to manage the Great Artesian Basin. It guides government, industry and the community.
The new Plan builds on the success of the first strategic management plan and brings in:
- new technical knowledge
- better sustainable water resource management practices
- changing social and political contexts.
We would like to acknowledge the work of the Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee (GABCC). The GABCC played a pivotal role in the development of the new Plan.
Stakeholder Advisory Committee
A Great Artesian Basin Stakeholder Advisory Committee will:
- advise on whole-of-Basin policies and initiatives
- present the views of industry, communities and other stakeholders.
The Committee will be established under the Great Artesian Basin Heads of Agreement. This agreement is between the Australian Government and Basin state and territory governments.
Sustainability initiatives for the Great Artesian Basin
From 1999 to 2017, the Australian Government has contributed approximately $130 million through the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative (GABSI) program. Work from the program saves over 250 GL per year.
In 2017 we announced $8 million for the Interim Great Artesian Basin Infrastructure Investment Program. The program was for water infrastructure improvements in the Basin for two years through 2018-19.
Through the life of the program, we contributed close to $5 million to Basin jurisdictions. The 20 projects undertaken during the program have resulted in over 3000 ML of water saved per year.
Other direct and indirect benefits to Basin communities include:
- sustaining cultural heritage values
- improved utilisation of productive land and farm businesses
- restoration of native vegetation
- improved water quality
- health of stock during drought
- reduced on-farm infrastructure costs.
- The Great Artesian Basin as a National Resource
- The Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee (GABCC)
- Hidden Treasure broadcast, ABC TV Landline, 3 November 2013.
- Capping and piping Artesian bores—2008
- Water down under
- Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan
- Economic Output of Groundwater Dependent Sectors in the Great Artesian Basin - 2016
- Understanding and Managing Australia's Great Artesian Basin—2011
- Associated off-farm economic values of saving water and restoring pressure in the Great Artesian Basin—2008
- The Great Artesian Basin – A Plan for the Future - 2020