Great Artesian Basin

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Great Artesian Basin

Policy Position (endorsed November 2016)

AgForce endorses the following policy positions relating to the management and use of water from the Great Artesian Basin (GAB):


  1. Access to available water for stock and domestic (S&D) purposes is a basic landholder right with intrinsic volume limits related to land capability and should be prioritised over other competing consumptive uses
  2. Groundwater planning and management should ensure the security, reliability and quality of the supplies of primary producers, including at least maintaining associated water pressures
  3. Support making further groundwater available for economic development in a responsible and sustainable way where this does not reduce the certainty, security and reliability of current entitlements, or increases the risk of adverse environmental impacts.
  4. Support a partnership approach to sustainability efforts to complete remaining bore capping and piping work, including the use of positive incentives to participation for landholders
  5. To complete the capping and piping of all required bores, if effective landholder incentives are provided during a significant transition period (e.g. not less than 10 years), then and only then would AgForce support an end to further public Sustainability Initiative co-funding and the greater use of regulation targeted at ensuring controlled systems are used
  6. As a basic right with intrinsic limits, water used for stock and domestic purposes should not be tradeable, metered (unless voluntarily), nor subject to water pricing regimes.
  7. Monitoring needs to be cost-effective and risk-proportionate, targeting those areas of greatest risk of over-allocation or other unsustainable use.
  8. Maintenance, renewal and replacement of groundwater infrastructure is the sole responsibility of the bore owner(s).

Water from the GAB is of vital importance to broadacre agriculture given this groundwater is often the only reliable source of household and livestock water in many arid and semi-arid areas. GAB water is sought by other stakeholders and there is a need to ensure use is sustainable over time. Water planning and regulation processes must recognise the essential nature of this water source for livestock survival and agricultural production and secure its supply for those purposes.
Production built on the consumption of GAB water contributes $12.8 Billion annually to the Australian economy, including $3 Billion from livestock within Queensland*. The GAB is of vital importance to our members given this groundwater is often the only reliable source of household and livestock water in many arid and semi-arid areas. The GAB also supports over a thousand natural springs. Groundwater quality and volume are very important natural values for AgForce members.

The Queensland Government is responsible for GAB water planning and management, primarily through the Water Act (2000) and the Water Plan (Great Artesian Basin and Other Regional Aquifers) 2017. The Plan is aimed at ensuring sustainable GAB water use with maintenance or improvement of water pressures a key issue addressed. This includes managing increased demand from new and expanding industries, towns and peri-urban areas as well as preventing further pressure declines from uncontrolled bores. The Plan requires controlled systems to be in place by 2027. The AgForce representative on the state government's GAB Advisory Council provides guidance to the Minister on GAB management issues.

The Australian Government also has an interest in GAB management through the national GAB Strategic Management Plan (SMP). The SMP looks to take a coordinated national approach to issues such as capping and piping, integrity of existing infrastructure, pricing and metering, and governance arrangements. Through the NFF representation on the national GAB Coordinating Committee, AgForce has input into national planning. AgForce is an active supporter of a partnership approach between governments and landholders to fund capping and piping sustainability works.

Water is a vitally important resource and needs to be managed to secure its environmental, social and economic values. AgForce supports planning and management that ensures the long-term sustainability of water resources, entitlement security and the meeting of future consumptive and environmental water needs. This framework should be supported by the cost-effective use of objective, scientific information, targeted regulation where water resources are at risk of over-use and transparent, efficient and equitable decision-making.

*Economic output of groundwater dependent sectors in the Great Artesian Basin. Frontier economis. August 2016.

Other relevant information

Relevant AgForce submissions on the GAB can be seen below by logging into the Member Only section.

A Significant Water Resource

The Great Artesian Basin (GAB) underlies about 22 per cent of the Australian continent (1.7 million square kilometres) and has been a vital resource in the development of many water dependent industries including broadacre agriculture in the rangelands. It is a key source of water for livestock and domestic purposes for many GAB communities and supports a range of cultural and environmental values.

Water resource management in the Queensland part of the Basin is planned and managed under a statutory water plan administered by the Queensland Government's Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy. The plan and supporting documents define the availability of water, provides a framework for sustainably managing the taking of water and identifies priorities and mechanisms for dealing with future requirements. The Plan is available under the water management section of the Department's website.  

It should be noted that both a water licence and a development permit are required to take or interfere with artesian water anywhere in the state. Before considering sinking a water bore, you should call 13 74 68 or contact your nearest DNRME business centre for information on the requirements for underground water in your area. These are listed on the Department's website.

The GAB contains almost 65 million ML of stored water but despite this enormous volume of stored water, artesian water pressure declined in many areas through uncontrolled extraction, leading to efforts to reverse this decline through sustainability programs. The GAB Sustainability Initiative is a partnership between landholders and state and federal governments to fund rehabilitation of free flowing bores and the replacement of bore drains with pipes, also known as 'capping and piping'. AgForce supports a partnership approach to bore and bore drain rehabilitation and strongly supports the continuation of the GABSI program until all the work is completed.

AgForce provides input into GAB management through representation on the Queensland Great Artesian Basin Advisory Council (GABAC) which advises the Minister for Natural Resources and Mines and as a member of NFF on the national Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee (GABCC), who oversees the implementation of the Strategic Management Plan for the Basin. 

Great Artesian Basin

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