Great Artesian Basin plan to stop losses

Graph from the GABORA draft plan showing water use.

Graph from the GABORA draft plan showing water use.

Hydrological assessments have given scientists a better idea of precisely how much water is coming out of the Great Artesian Basin but uncapped bores remains a huge problem which needs to be addressed in the next 10 years.

That’s one of the main messages coming out of the Great Artesian Basin and Other Regional Aquifers (GABORA) draft plan which is now out for public consultation.

A Mount Isa forum on Thursday heard that the current plan expires this year and while this plan is silent on water wastage from free flowing bores and drains the new draft is proposing a ten year action plan to address the issue.

There are estimated to be more than 25,000 bores tapping the Queensland GAB, taking 315,000 ML a year.

A diagram from the draft plan showed that in 2016 around 90,400 ML of that total was accounted for in losses through seepage and evaporation from uncontrolled bores and open bore drains.

This exceeds the amount extracted by stock and domestic of 66,000 ML and the oil and gas industries 64,000 ML with other uses accounting for 93,000 ML.

Since 1989 almost 1000 bores have been rehabilitated under government-funded program but an estimated one in five uncapped bores in Queensland remain untreated while 28% of bore drains have yet to be replaced with pipelines.

Under the plan all stock and domestic water users will be required to deliver water through water-tight delivery systems by the time the plan expires in 2027.

Stock and domestic licences that permit free flowing bores or bore drains will require a bore management plan outlining what steps will be taken to deliver a water-tight delivery system.

While existing uncontrolled bores or bore drains must be controlled and piped by 2027, landholders can continue to have a bore drain if it is proven to sustain environmentally or culturally significant values, criteria that will be applied in rare circumstances around “environmentally or culturally significant values” requiring public benefit.

A five year review process to monitor progress on measures taken by landholders will be included in the new plan and compliance actions for landholders without watertight delivery systems will be undertaken at the end of 10 years.

Public submission on the plan are invited until April 17.