THE next 15-year strategic management plan for Great Artesian Basin water has been released today, focusing on improving alignment of Basin management with nationally agreed strategies and frameworks.
A new Great Artesian Basin Stakeholder Advisory Committee will also be established later this year to advise on whole-of-Basin policies and initiatives.
It builds on the first Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan which was released in 2000 to develop strategies between Basin governments and landholders to oversee bore rehabilitation efforts.
Achievements since that time have included $248 million invested by Commonwealth and State Governments through the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative (GABSI) to improve water infrastructure.
This resulted in 750 bores being capped or decommissioned, 21,390km of open bore drains piped and 250 gigalitres of water saved each year.
A major theme from public consultation in the development of the plan highlighted concerns relating to equity between water users and transparency relating to water use.
This included in particular the quantity of water taken by extractive industries and their potential impact on water quality, including stock and domestic water supplies.
Among the concerns is that is water take for different industries is managed under different legislation within the same State and not all water take in the Basin is fully accounted for in a consistent manner.
“There is a desire for all water users to be accountable in order to contribute to maintaining the long-term sustainability of the Basin,” the plan states.
The plan identifies opportunities to address these issues including more work to increase stakeholder awareness of the value of the basin, ensuring new demand does not affect the improvements achieved by the previous plan, develop adaptive management approaches to accommodate changes in artesian pressures, improve cross-border management of groundwater resources, develop monitoring and accounting required to enable tracking of water use and resource condition, and clearly define the rights and responsibilities of water users.
The latest Great Artesian Basin Strategic Plan was released by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment along with its partners in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory today.
It said the plan brings in new technical knowledge, better sustainable water resource management practices, and changing social and political contexts.
Figures reported in the plan show that Basin water currently supports $12.8 billion of production each year, including stock (pastoral and intensive), irrigation, mining, electricity and gas industries and tourism.
On-farm investment has been significant with a total of 50,475 bores, the vast majority of which less than 200 metres deep and draw water from sub-artesian aquifers, while around 9000 are artesian bores, over 1000 of which are over 1200 metres deep.
Total extractions from the Basin are around 451,000 megalitres (451 gigalitres) per year.
The pastoral industry is the largest water user in the basin, licensed to receive 187,000 ML/year, or 41pc of Basin water extraction. The pastoral industry generates more than $4 billion in production value annually.
The second largest water user is the irrigated agriculture sector, which uses 109,000 ML/year, or 28pc of total water, and generates $58 million.
The third largest is user is listed as ‘mining, intensive stock and other industries’, which consume 57,000 ML/year (12pc), along with the gas/petroleum industry which is a growing water user and using mostly co-produced water, and consumes 87,000 ML/year. Mining and petroleum industries generated value of $6.3 billion per year and the gas sector almost $2 billion.
120 towns also rely on Basin for water supply, consuming more than 40,000 ML/year or 9pc of Basin water.
The Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan is available on the DAWE website here: https://www.agriculture.gov.au/water/national/great-artesian-basin/strategic-management-plan