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Future Directions for the Management of the Great Artesian Basin

Commonwealth of Australia, 2015

A Review of the Strategic Management Plan

Executive Summary

Future Directions for the Management of the Great Artesian Basin is a review of the 2000 Strategic Management Plan and identification of key management issues that have arisen in the Great Artesian Basin (the Basin) since 2000. This report provides findings to inform the development of a new Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan (Strategic Plan).

The current Strategic Plan expires in September 2015 and all Basin jurisdictions agreed to undertake this review as an opportunity for governments, communities and water users to reflect on the management of the Basin since 2000 and to identify issues to be considered in the future management of the Basin.

This review was undertaken by the Australian Government in consultation with the Basin jurisdictions of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory, along with the Chair of the Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee (GABCC). Future Directions for the Management of the Great Artesian Basin aims to be a collaborative document reflecting the views of all Basin governments and community of Basin water users.

The review covers key achievements in Basin water management since 2000, status of ongoing issues, emerging issues and an assessment of the effectiveness of institutional and governance arrangements.

A range of findings have been drawn from the review and these have been grouped into the following three categories:

  1. achievements in Basin water management
  2. ongoing issues for consideration in the development of the new Strategic Management Plan
  3. new issues for consideration in the development of the new Strategic Management Plan.

The findings of the review are listed at Tables 1, 2 and 3.

Since the current Strategic Plan was first endorsed by governments, there has been significant progress in addressing the key issues and risks to the Basin identified at that time. A key achievement since 2000 has been the continual improvement in the awareness of Basin water management issues by landholders, communities and other water users. The Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative (GABSI) and the implementation of the current Strategic Plan have assisted in educating water users on the efficient use of the resource, water use practice, reduction of water wastage and the environmental benefits of water savings.

Monitoring of artesian pressure, flow and pressure in parts of the Basin shows that declining artesian pressure appears to be stabilising in areas where many bores have been plugged, capped and piped over the last 20 years. In addition, the removal and reduction of bore drains has been an effective management tool to address not only water wastage, but also to reduce the adverse environmental impacts associated with bore drains such as weed and pest incursions. These achievements can be attributed to the successful implementation of the GABSI programmes.

A key finding of the review is the urgent need to clearly identify the necessary funding sources and incentives needed for the ongoing management of the Basin. This includes incentives which signal to water users their responsibilities in using and managing their own access and ongoing use of Basin water. Future management will also need to include consideration of the size, location and cost of the proposed infrastructure works.

Over the past 15 years, many issues have evolved and new issues have emerged. The new Strategic Plan needs to provide flexible and adaptive principles that can assist in proactively addressing water resource issues as they emerge.