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Great Artesian Basin Water Management


Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative

​Beginning in the 1950s regulation required that all new bores be fitted with headworks to control flows, and each of the states started programs to upgrade and control bores and convert drains to piped delivery systems. By the late 1990s more than 1,500 artesian bores continued to flow into more than 34,000km of open bore drains as a result of inadequate technology.

Prior to 1999 a number of programs were commissioned to address the uncontrolled flow of water from artesian bores. Although these programs resulted in 650 flowing bores being controlled and a 126,000 Ml/yr saving of water, the Basin-wide stakeholder perspective was that these rehabilitation programs were uncoordinated and underinvested.

A basin-wide coordinated approach to bore rehabilitation was proposed as part of the Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan 2000, and resulted in the development of the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative program. This program was delivered in partnership by the Australian, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Northern Territory governments to provide funding support to repair uncontrolled bores.

GABSI came to an end on 30 June 2017 after 17 years and over $124 million invested by the Australian Government. This funding was matched by the New South Wales, South Australian and Queensland governments and has resulted in:

  • More than 750 bores have been upgraded
  • 21,375 km of bore drains being decommissioned
  • 31,532 km of new efficient pipe drains being installed
  • More than 250 GL of water savings per year.
 Phases 1-4 Total as at 30 June 2017
(NSW, SA and Qld)
Delayed projects in Qld as at 30 June 2017
Bores controlled 7563
Bore drains deleted (kms) 21,37516
Piping installed 31,53215
Est annual water saving (Ml/annum) 252,556654.5
Aust Gov contributions ($ mil) 124.540.42

The GABSI program was fundamental in the restoration and repair of the uncontrolled bores and bore drains since 1999 and has made a remarkably successful contribution toward realising sustainable management of Basin water and pressure resources.

The Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee has developed a Briefing Note on the GABSI Program, its achievements and the future.

Further information on the GABSI is available on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website.

Free flowing bore drain, Queensland

Capped bore drain, Queensland

Interim Great Artesian Basin Infrastructure Investment Program

On the 12 May 2017 the Australian Government announced $8 million to fund the Interim Great Artesian Basin Infrastructure Investment Program for the delivery of water infrastructure improvements in the Great Artesian Basin for two years to 2018-19. The Australian Government is currently working with state governments, industry and communities to develop an enduring partnership model for supporting Basin water infrastructure improvements into the future.

This program will be designed to allow important infrastructure upgrades to continue after round four of the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative ceased on 30 June 2017. The $8 million in funding will help continue the delivery of important water infrastructure upgrades, by capping free flowing bores and replacing inefficient open bore drains with modern piped reticulation systems. These upgrades deliver significant benefits for industries and support regional development and economic growth across Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

To date, the government has provided more than $124 million to state and territory governments to help protect the future of the Great Artesian Basin. It is estimated that $12.8 billion in economic activity annually is underpinned by Basin water, so securing a sustainable future for the Basin with more efficient water infrastructure is essential, not just for communities and industry, but also the health of important ecosystems dependant on groundwater.

The Australian Government will work with Great Artesian Basin governments, states and territories to develop a new Project Agreement to deliver the program. The new long-term funding model is expected to encourage greater private investment in water infrastructure.

Following agreement on the necessary governance and funding arrangement the Great Artesian Basin jurisdictions will begin implementing the program. Further information will be made available on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as it becomes available.

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