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Key Issues

Declining artesian pressure

Pressure is a key attribute of any artesian groundwater resource providing a relatively low-cost supply in remote areas. Excessive extraction of water through uncontrolled discharge from artesian bores, both above and below ground level, has resulted in a continuing decline in artesian pressures in parts of the Basin, causing a loss of access to artesian water by an increasing number of water users.

Reduced natural discharge in response to declining artesian pressure is also causing detrimental impacts on groundwater-dependent ecosystems (such as mound springs and wetlands) and associated biodiversity and cultural heritage values.

Undervaluing

Water users, governments and the community generally lack an adequate appreciation of the economic, social, cultural and environmental values of the Basin, and its current condition. Past attempts to improve resource management and use have been compromised through a failure to place an appropriate value on the availability of artesian water supply and other Basin values and a failure to appreciate the long-term threat from the continuation of current conditions and practices.

Water waste and environmental degradation

Discharge of water through bore drains is causing environmental degradation, contributing to the spread of feral animals, weeds and pests, and wasting water which could otherwise be used to maintain artesian pressure and provide for other uses. Uncontrolled access to water by stock, feral and native animals through bore drains is resulting in grazing pressures in some areas, to the detriment of both biodiversity and the pastoral industry.

Water entitlements and responsibilities

Some water users have failed to invest in the maintenance of infrastructure, because they believe that bore maintenance and bore drain replacement costs are not justified, and there is insufficient (regulatory) incentive for water users to incur such expenditure.

Many users do not have a secure entitlement to a specified volume of water, nor are water users' responsibilities always clear. Competition for access to the artesian groundwater resource is likely to increase. Water users will need greater certainty of access to a long-term supply to justify long-term investments in both infrastructure and enterprise development.

Water management, institutional and legislative reforms are needed to secure access to water and to clarify water users' responsibilities.

Basin values tend to be managed in isolation from other values

Resource allocation and management decisions are often made without consideration of other natural resource values which may depend on the groundwater resource. The presence or absence of water has impacts on biodiversity in arid regions. Basin management focused on a single value, to the exclusion of other values, is not likely to result in the optimum level and mix of benefits from the resource. A multi-objective management approach is essential.

Availability and quality of information

Robust management decisions by resource managers and water users need to be based on reliable and readily accessible information. There are some aspects of the Basin where information needed to support critical decisions is unavailable. In other situations, inadequate understanding of the Basin undermines decisions on investments. Information on Indigenous, social, environmental and cultural heritage values is not always available and so these values are not always appropriately considered in water resource allocation and management decisions.