The Queensland Government has released the new Great Artesian Basin and Other Regional Aquifers Water Plan, replacing the previous Great Artesian Basin Water Plan, which was adopted in September 2006 and expired on 1 September 2017.
Natural Resources and Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the new plan gave farmers incentives to meet a 10-year deadline to deal with the remaining free flowing bores and drains in the basin area.
“About 80,000 megalitres of water are wasted annually in the Queensland Great Artesian Basin area though uncontrolled bores and drains,” Dr Lynham said.
“The new Great Artesian Basin and Other Regional Aquifers water plan offers landholders 30 per cent of the water they save when they cap bores and pipe drains.”
The Great Artesian Basin stretches across more than 1.7 million km2 across Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory, storing about 64.9 million gigalitres of water.
The Basin provides water for more than 80 regional Queensland towns and grazing, cropping, feedlots, mining, tourism and geothermal power industries from Thargomindah in the south-west to Weipa in the far north.
Under a joint Commonwealth-State Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative, 700 uncontrolled flowing bores have been rehabilitated and more than 14 000 kilometres of bore drains have been replaced with piping. This is saving 207,205 megalitres per annum from the Great Artesian Basin.
Dr Lynham said the new plan would introduce water available specifically for economic opportunities for Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders across the plan area.
“Under the changes, an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community can use up to 2 megalitres per year to support the development of local businesses and employment opportunities,” he said.
“As well, where unallocated water is available, a proportion has been reserved for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities for future economic development.”
The plan, developed with input from science-based technical assessments, the Great Artesian Basin Advisory Council and community consultation, makes water trading more flexible by allowing for the first time water licence holders in highly developed areas such the eastern Darling Downs to trade water to encourage economic development in less developed areas such as the Eromanga, Surat and Carpentaria Basins.
The plan makes available a total of 39,505 megalitres of unallocated water reserves across the plan area.
The plan is available at www.dnrm.qld.gov.au/water/catchments-planning/catchments/great-artesian-basin