Great Artesian Basin report

SoilFutures Consulting, March 2015

A new report reveals The Great Artesian Basin (GAB) in the Pilliga Forest of North West NSW is one of the most critical water recharge areas and is under siege from unconventional gas mining.

The report will be presented at today’s meeting of the NSW Great Artesian Basin Advisory Group in Mudgee.

Resource company Santos has put forward plans to the Federal Government to drill 850 coal seam gas wells into the area mapped as the highest water significance in NSW.

The report found that The GAB provides the only reliable source of fresh water throughout much of inland Australia and provides 22% of Australia’s freshwater supply and that if the proposed coal seam gas mining goes ahead we endanger this supply.

The GAB contains an extensive and complex groundwater system that extends over 22% of the Australian continent where it is the only reliable groundwater or surface water source. Water from the GAB is released under pressure to the surface through natural springs and artesian bores.

“Much of the groundwater held in the Great Artesian Basin is very old, having taken thousands to many hundreds of thousands of years to reach its current position in the basin from the recharge beds which are predominantly around the margins of the basin. Modern recharge is not thought to add significantly to the volume stored in the basin however it provides the crucial pressure head to keep the artesian waters flowing to the surface across this massive expanse of land.” 

The report found that gas exploration and production licenses in recharge zones appears to have progressed without much consideration of a GAB wide impact on artesian groundwater resources and pressures. It recommends a “basin wide approach” when considering activities such as coal seam gas operations.

The report suggests Australia look to how Germany manages potential impacts on groundwater. It says that the concept of “Wasserschutzgebiet” provides legislated groundwater protection zones to protect both water quality and quantity.

Read the report here. New

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