Carnarvon Gorge, 2009. Photo: Angus Emmott
Since concerns about the state of the Great Artesian Basin were first raised more than a century ago, considerable reform has been achieved. In the face of rising demands for water in a more variable climate, satisfaction of ecological, economic and social goals will be met through strong, collaborative partnerships.
There is already concerted action to protect springs and the ecological communities that depend on them. Recognition is growing that Basin water must be used in ways that maintains and enhances biodiversity and reverses land degradation. There is also a move towards more active participation, especially with Indigenous Australians seeking to strengthen their connection to springs and traditional lands.
Opportunity exists in a number of areas for improved harmonisation of state water sharing plans in the 'next generation' planning cycle. This will further promote consistent management outcomes for the GAB. Legislation is also progressively being amended to ensure adequate regulation of the impacts of emerging industries.
Consistent Basin-wide monitoring is progressively expanding, and new pressures on water resources in the area of the GAB are seeing increasing research to ensure decisions about the allocation and management of the GAB are support by best available science.
Climate change is predicted to increase already high evaporation rates from bore ponds, drains and springs, and a more variable climate will increase demands on Basin water. While changes in rainfall resulting from climate change will affect how much water enters the Basin, artesian flows are extremely slow, at only 1 to 5 metres per year, and so the impacts of any changes are unlikely to be noticeable within normal planning horizons for the GAB.
Ongoing cooperative management by governments, industries and communities, based on improved information, effective legislation advanced technologies and strong partnerships will ensure sustainable use of the treasure that is Australia's Great Artesian Basin.