Investigations to identify potential groundwater resources

The Marshall Government has commenced work to investigate potential new sources of groundwater that could support economic growth in the state’s outback, including South Australia’s critical resources sector.

Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan said a scarcity of water was a significant barrier to economic development throughout outback South Australia.

“If we can deliver increased supplies of water at a lower cost, without adversely impacting on the environment, regional and remote South Australians will enjoy access to more jobs and business opportunities,” said Minister for Energy and Mining, Dan van Holst Pellekaan.

“The Marshall Government is investigating options to address constraints to economic growth in outback SA, including restricted water supplies and the high cost of developing support infrastructure, by identifying potential corridors that could be used for a range of new infrastructure by multiple users.

“South Australia’s energy and mining sector already produced about 8 per cent of the State’s annual Gross State Product (GSP) in 2018 and around 44 per cent of the State’s international goods exports, valued about $5.3 billion.

“Energy and mining employs more than 41,000 South Australians and plays a pivotal role in the economic development of regional South Australia, including through its support for Aboriginal businesses and employment.”

Minister for Environment and Water, David Speirs, said the investigation is part of the Marshall Liberal Government’s Water and Infrastructure Corridors Initiative, which aims to address water access and growth constraints by improving knowledge of groundwater resources in targeted regions of South Australia.

The project also aims to identify requirements for, and any limitations to, developing multi-use infrastructure corridors in priority areas.

“New opportunities for economic growth in regional and remote South Australia often require new infrastructure and secure and sustainable water supplies to be developed,” Minister Speirs said.

“Developing this new infrastructure for individual investments is currently a difficult and time consuming process, often with high costs. It also needs to align with the location of available water supplies.

“The first phase of this initiative is aimed at improving our knowledge of groundwater resources and identifying potential new sources in the state’s north. This is key to ensuring that communities are able to adapt to a drying climate and support future investment and economic growth in our regions.

The Department for Environment and Water will carry out research focussing on a deep, confined aquifer known as the Cotabena Formation, which is located in the state’s north, stretching from near Port Pirie to north-west of Leigh Creek.

The program aims to identify the quality and quantity of groundwater available, improve our understanding of regional water resources and inform decisions on shared water resources and infrastructure for outback South Australia.

Minister Speirs explained that the locations for the groundwater investigations in the Cotabena Formation have been identified and the department is now working with landholders to prepare for the groundwater assessments.

“The work will involve drilling two bores to conduct pump tests, as well as two observation bores to assist with the groundwater assessments,” Minister Speirs said.

“Airborne geophysics data across the Braemar region is also being processed by the CSIRO to identify palaeo-valleys most suitable for groundwater investigations in this area.

“If a suitable quality and quantity of water is confirmed, these groundwater resources could help ensure sustainable water supplies to support communities, agriculture, industry and the environment in the northern region – now and into the future.”