VITAL BORES: Studies to learn more about the Great Artesian Basin are being conducted by Geoscience Australia.
VITAL BORES: Studies to learn more about the Great Artesian Basin are being conducted by Geoscience Australia. Barry Leddicoat

Technology to unlock secrets of the source

GROUNDWATER from the Great Artesian Basin is a vital source of life for the entirety of southwest Queensland, and the management of the precious resource is getting a $6.5 million push in to the future.

New technology will now be helping experts gather more information about the basin than ever before, as satellites and supercomputers unlock its secrets.

There is a lot to it, and a great deal of data about the basin will be collected across a number of sites, including those in space, said a Geoscience Australia spokeswoman.

"The project will use the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) at the Australian National University to process and analyse of a range of large hydrogeological and spatial datasets.

"This will include use of the Digital Earth Australia platform, which integrates spatial data and images recorded by satellites orbiting our planet to detect physical changes across Australia.

"This can be used to map the location and monitor changes in surface water and vegetation condition, which will improve our understanding of groundwater recharge into the Great Artesian Basin,” she said.

Learning about the basin in will tell scientists how the water travels underground and how it relates to water on the surface in the region's creeks and rivers.

Right now, there is much more to learn about how the basin naturally re-fills over time, and how much water is actually in the giant underground sources, the spokesperson said.

"Other satellite data, such as that from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) space gravity missions, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites and the Global Positioning System (GPS) can also be used to provide estimates of changes in total water storage within the Great Artesian Basin, especially when integrated with other hydrogeological data and information, such as isotopic studies of water samples,” she said.

Investment from the Federal Government has gotten the new basin project off the ground, and minister for agriculture and water resources David Littleproud said it will be a step towards greater water security.

"The technology will take the guesswork out of managing water in the basin, which still holds many mysteries, such as how water naturally flows beneath the earth.

"This is the water that keeps the outback running and we've got to make sure it lasts.

"More than 180,000 people living in the outback depend on its water, along with 7,600 businesses worth $13 billion a year,” he said.

More than just information-gathering, the Artesian Basin research will have a huge influence on the region in almost all areas, on a local, state and national levels, said Mr Littleproud.

"This project will tell us how water enters the Basin from rainfall, how it is used and how much is held in storage.

"Geoscience Australia will measure gravity changes across the basin which will be analysed by supercomputers, and we'll also be using the knowledge of industry and geologists who have worked in the Basin.

"What we learn will help us make important decisions balancing long term social, economic and environmental outcomes,” he said.

The basin covers more than 1.7 million km2.

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