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Northern Basin projects

Improving Great Artesian Basin Drought Resilience Program

Replacing and upgrading uncontrolled bores and installing efficient watering delivery systems.

Completed scheme.

About the program

The Improving Great Artesian Basin Drought Resilience program aims to improve water security and drought resilience for eligible landholders across the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) in NSW by replacing or upgrading uncontrolled flowing and aging artesian bores with new bores and water reticulation systems.

Aging, failing and uncontrolled free flowing water bores and open bore drains have led to significant water and pressure loss across the GAB.  As a result, artesian pressure has fallen with up to 95% of water delivered through open bore drains wasted due to evaporation and seepage.

Between January 2022 and June 2023, the program completed the construction of five new bores sites. Construction is underway on four additional priority bore sites, which are anticipated to be completed by June 2024.

The program is a five-year $18.2 million initiative jointly funded by the Australian Government ($9.1 million) and the NSW Government ($9.1 million).  The program also received additional NSW Government funding ($3.9 million) as part of 2019 election commitments and via landholder funding.

The importance of the Great Artesian Basin

The Great Artesian Basin is a large underground water resource covering nearly a quarter of the Australian mainland across Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory. It lies under 25% of inland NSW.

Water from the GAB is essential for the health and economic and social development of the state.

Water from the GAB is an important source of drinking water and water security for more than 120 regional NSW towns. It is used for drinking, washing and other household uses.

The GAB also underpins economic development and employment by supporting regional industries, such as agriculture, mining and tourism. It provides a reliable source of water for crops and livestock, particularly in drier regions of the state.

It is also important to First Nation communities maintaining cultural, social and spiritual connections to the land and water. First Nations people have relied on GAB water to live in dry inland areas of Australia for more than 60,000 years. The natural springs hold important cultural and spiritual significance and are integral to many First Nations ceremonies and stories.

The isolated nature of the springs and the surrounding arid environment also means approximately 80 rare species of great ecological and evolutionary significance call it home.

Impact of uncontrolled and aging bores in the Great Artesian Basin

The loss of water through uncontrolled and aging bores across the GAB:

  • has significant implications for the water security of regional towns, agriculture and other industries, especially in times of drought
  • threatens groundwater-dependent ecosystems, such as wetlands, springs and water dependent vegetation
  • can lead to the drying up of these ecosystems, which can have a serious impact on the plants and animals relying on them
  • encourages the spread of pests responsible for the decline of native species, as well as weeds that degrade the soil - accelerating soil erosion and threatening the biodiversity of natural grasslands.
Program outcomes

By replacing or upgrading this bore infrastructure, landholders benefit through increased access to water, improved biodiversity and reduced salinisation on their property.

Communities and landholders relying on the GAB are already seeing improved water security, drought resilience and water pressure as a result of the program.

Through the program, and the previous cap and pipe the bores program, the NSW Government has:

  • saved more than 80,000 megalitres of water from evaporation and seepage each year
  • rehabilitated more than 400 free flowing bores
  • removed more than 10,000 km of open bore drains
  • installed more than 18,000 km of enclosed piping.

Environmental planning and assessments

View the program's Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation [Clause 171(4)] publications below:

Contact us

If you have questions or want to know more about the project, call 1300 081 047 or email us at water.efficiency@dpie.nsw.gov.au