New plan for water use in the Far North released

News article |

A new plan to protect and manage the finite resource of the Great Artesian Basin and other aquifers in the far north of SA has been officially released.

Posted 15 March 2021.

The new Far North Prescribed Wells Area (FNPWA) Water Allocation Plan (WAP) has been adopted by the Minister for Environment and Water, David Speirs and outlines the principles and rules for managing the take and use of the water resource to ensure its sustainability.

Artesian water in the South Australian Outback is a finite and precious resource which sustains the pastoral, mining, tourism, and oil and gas industries, as well as being the main water source for small Outback towns. These industries, reliant on water from the Great Artesian Basin, contribute $3bn annually to the State’s economy.

The water also feeds the unique and ancient mound springs that are found across the region, and are home to unique arid land flora and fauna. The new WAP for the FNPWA manages the South Australian portion of the Great Artesian Basin and other valuable water resources in the region to strike a balance between all users of this water - namely industry, towns, first peoples and the environment - to enable these industries, social and cultural values and environmental assets to be preserved into the future.

Consultation with First Nations, community and industries dependent on the resource was integral to the Plan, which was by developed by the Board, in partnership with the Department for Environment and Water.

In 2017 the Board commenced a review of the former Water Allocation Plan and undertook a comprehensive engagement process with community and stakeholders to modernise the former WAP and ensure protection of the water resource and the existing rights of users for the future.

Minister for Environment and Water David Speirs said the new plan provides for further acknowledgement of Aboriginal water interests and protection of significant groundwater dependent ecosystems including the GAB springs.

“The Plan is a sound framework to sustainably manage the groundwater resources in the Far North, including the Great Artesian Basin, to protect the economic, environmental, social and cultural values associated with the groundwater and to facilitate the judicious use of water, Minister Speirs said.

“The Board has undertaken extensive consultation with the community, industry, First Nations and interested stakeholders to prepare the Plan, which demonstrates South Australia’s commitment to the guiding principles of the Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan.”

Ross Sawers, Presiding Member of the SA Arid Lands Landscape Board, said the work on implementing the 10-Year FNPWA Water Allocation Plan will now begin, which will ultimately ensure sustainable use of the valuable water resource that lifestyles and economies in a significant portion of the outback are founded upon.

“Anyone living in the far north of the State recognises the importance of responsible use of our water resources to sustain the livelihoods of community and key industries for SA, including pastoralism, mining, oil and gas, and tourism,” Mr Sawers said.

“The Board is now focused on implementing the new WAP, which will ensure water is used judiciously across the Far North Prescribed Wells Area.”

“It has taken a great deal of work to bring together the new Water Allocation Plan and I would like to thank the community for their involvement, from early conversations with the former and current Board to the recent adoption of the new Water Allocation Plan.”

More information on the WAP, including a copy of the Plan and the Guiding document are available on the Board’s website.

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