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
Great Artesian Basin—map [PDF – 722 KB]
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 which is over one-fifth of the Australian continent. There is around 65 million GL of groundwater in the Basin which is enough water to fill the Sydney Harbour 130,000 times.
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.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have relied on Basin water to live in dry inland areas of Australia for more than 60,000 years. Communities 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.
To reduce water wastage and control these problems, Basin jurisdictions began work in the 1950s to manage water infrastructure. Projects were aimed at upgrading and controlling bores as well as converting drains to usable water delivery systems. Although this type of work contributed to hundreds of bores being upgraded, it was generally considered uncoordinated and underinvested.
A basin-wide coordinated approach to funding bore rehabilitation was commenced in 1999 with the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative, that was jointly funded by the Commonwealth and Basin State and Territory governments.
On 19 August 2018, the Australian Government announced a new program of investment in effective and collaborative Great Artesian Basin management. The Improving Great Artesian Basin Drought Resilience program is providing Basin jurisdictions with up to $27.6 million of matched funding from the Australian Government over five years from 1 July 2019 (2019-20 to 2023-24).
Find out more:
Strategic Management Plan
The new Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan was released in 2019.
The Plan proposes a principles-based approach to manage the Great Artesian Basin. It guides government, industry and the community.
Read more about the Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan
Stakeholder Advisory Committee
The Great Artesian Basin Stakeholder Advisory Committee (GABSAC) was appointed as of March 2022. They will advise Basin ministers on whole-of-basin policies and initiatives and present views of the industry, communities and stakeholders.
Read more about the Great Artesian Basin Stakeholder Advisory Committee (GABSAC)
Geoscience Australia Great Artesian Basin Groundwater Project
We are working in conjunction with Geoscience Australia to undertake the project ‘Assessing the Status of Groundwater in the Great Artesian Basin’.
This project aims to address major knowledge gaps currently present in understanding the Basin’s hydrogeology so as to support more responsible management of the resource.
- The Great Artesian Basin as a National Resource
- The Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee (GABCC)
- Current GAB programs
- 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