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Securing Australia’s water resources


To optimise and sustain the use of our water resources.


Geoscience Australia supports the fair sharing of Australia’s water resources to encourage a strong economy, resilient society and sustainable environment. We aspire to identify the location, quantity and quality of Australia’s groundwater resources to support sustainable water management.

Performance criteria and results

Table 4: Strategic priority: Securing Australia’s water resources—performance

Evaluating Australia’s groundwater systems

Program deliverable1


Provide authoritative, independent information and advice to the Australian Government and other stakeholders on groundwater resources, processes and impacts

Geoscience Australia delivered independent information and advice by:

responding to 15 requests for advice related to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)

providing technical advice on groundwater matters (pre- and post-approvals) to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, in support of the department undertaking its regulatory and administrative responsibilities

providing technical advice and support to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, for the mine closure and rehabilitation plan of the Ranger Uranium Mine in the Northern Territory

engaging with the Australian Government’s review of the EPBC Act.

Deliver stage reports on the GBA program to the former Department of the Environment and Energy

Six scientific reports were completed for Stage 2 of the Geological and Bioregional Assessments (GBA) program, to support environmental best practice development of unconventional gas resources in the Beetaloo Sub-basin, Isa Superbasin and Cooper Basin regions.

Deliver stage reports on the water balance of the Great Artesian Basin

Two scientific reports were completed covering the development of new datasets, new products and an assessment of the applicability of satellite measurements, to assist in refinement of the water balance for the Great Artesian Basin.

Key performance indicator (KPI)1



Requests for groundwater resource management advice under the EPBC Act are responded to within agreed timeframes



All 15 groundwater advice requests under the EPBC Act were provided within agreed timeframes.

Groundwater and surface water innovation

Program deliverable1


Develop new workflows to integrate and analyse data in a high-performance computing environment

Geoscience Australia developed new workflows that are used to integrate geophysical and geological data to better map key groundwater systems in northern Australia. The innovations developed using high-performance computing have improved the efficiency and effectiveness of products delivered as part of the Exploring for the Future (EFTF) program.

Key highlights include:

  • developing a new approach to help land and watershed managers understand the confidence with which salinity can be mapped over large areas using airborne electromagnetic (AEM) data
  • benchmarking a series of different AEM inversion products to help determine which model is the most appropriate to use for interpretation. This significantly improves the accuracy of mapping groundwater resources using AEM data.

1 Source: 2019–20 Corporate Plan

Case Study

Providing new groundwater data to support agricultural development in the Ord region of northern Australia

Geoscience Australia’s EFTF program is delivering new data, science and understanding of the surface and groundwater systems and associated soils. This supports our efforts to attract new agricultural investment in key regions of northern Australia.

During 2019–20, we collected a vast amount of new data, including new groundwater samples and extensive airborne surveys. This new information, overlaid with historical data and analysed using innovative scientific techniques, provided new insights into understanding how groundwater flows, discharges and recharges across northern Australia.

A greater understanding of Australia’s groundwater resources is essential for the communities, agricultural development and ecosystems that rely on this vital resource across Australia. This evidence will continue to build our understanding of northern Australia’s groundwater resources for decades to come.

Work supporting the case study of the Ord region is continuing and will be covered in the next reporting period.

Performance analysis

In 2019–20, Geoscience Australia, in collaboration with our research partners, continued to provide technical advice and geological information to support the responsible governance and management of Australia’s groundwater resources, including the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s regulatory and compliance activities under the EPBC Act.

Publication of Stage 2 scientific reports for the Geological and Bioregional Assessment program provided key baseline information to improve understanding of the potential impacts of shale and tight gas development on water and the environment, for three geological basins that have potential to provide additional supplies to the east coast gas market within 10 years. The information in these reports will also support regulation of groundwater resources by enhancing the coordinated management of potential impacts from unconventional gas developments and will underpin the subsequent impact and risk assessment for the three basins in Stage 3 of the program.

Geoscience Australia’s scientific leadership in developing new techniques to accurately map groundwater resources from satellite data continues to show promise for improving management of water within the Great Artesian Basin. Continued development of these techniques will allow state government entities to rapidly detect and monitor groundwater storage changes over time, enabling them to support industries worth at least $12.8 billion in value and secure town water supplies.