The Great Artesian Basin (GAB) is an enormous underground water resource that stretches across most of western Queensland, the NT, NSW and South Australia. In the pastoral regions of these areas, the GAB is often the only source of water, and is the only source of permanent water supply.
A research report released today by Frontier Economics has found that consumptive use of GAB water directly contributes $12.8 billion to the Australian economy each year.
This is comprised of $4.6 billion from livestock (mainly cattle) production, $60 million from irrigated agriculture, around $6 billion from mining and gas production, and around $720 million from tourism activity. This figure is only direct economic activity, and doesn’t take into account the up-stream and downstream business activities that support these industries. By the time a multiplier effect is applied, the GAB is an invaluable national natural resource.
A new long term strategic management plan for the GAB is being drafted by the Governments of GAB states and territories, along with the Great Artesian Basin Consultative Committee (of which National Farmers' Federation (NFF) is a member). The Frontier Report highlights the importance of the GAB, and the need to reach agreement on how the GAB will be managed for our collective long term future.
Collectively, governments and graziers have invested millions of dollars in capping and piping programs to address issues of wastage, declining pressures and land degradation that are associated with free flowing bores. While much of this work has been finalised, there is still more to be done to fully realise the value of this past investment.
With nearly 35,000 bores across the GAB, the strategic management plan must address the future arrangements for managing these assets. Bores that are not maintained, replaced or properly decommissioned waste water and can diminish pressure locally.
Ensuring that decisions about access to and use of GAB water are made using the best available science is critical. How we understand the risks to the integrity of the GAB, and the cumulative impacts of developments must be central to future management. How we manage increasing demand for GAB water, and the risks of irreversible damage, from mining and gas developments must also be addressed.
The sustainability of the GAB is critical to ensure that access to its precious water by graziers and other users can be sustained over time, and that important springs and other environmental values of the GAB are protected into the future. We all have responsibility for its future.
What do you think is important for the future of the GAB? The chance to have your say and inform the future is today!
The full report is available on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website.