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The challenge

Prolonged drought

In 2010, South Australia (SA) had experienced a prolonged drought. There were concerns regarding the equitable distribution of water through the Murray Darling Basin system and growing recognition of the need to adopt legislative changes to the Water Act 2007. In response, the SA government allocated new funding to establish and operate the Goyder Institute for Water Research (Goyder Institute) to enhance SA water security and the capacity of the SA government to deliver science-based policy and water management outcomes. The Goyder Institute’s activities are adaptive in order to meet the evolving priorities of the SA government.

One research project conducted during Goyder 1 and 2 was selected for more detailed analysis for this case study, namely: Facilitating Long-Term Outback Water Solutions (G-FLOWS).

G-FLOWS aims to locate, define and quantify groundwater resources in key areas of the state, including priority mineral prospective zones, across the Musgrave Province, the north east and north west Gawler Craton, parts of the Frome Embayment in the east, and the northern Eyre Peninsula. Limited water in these regions threatens the sustainability of regional communities and the resources sector, both of whom rely primarily on groundwater aquifers for human water consumption, mining (ore-processing, slurry transport and dust suppression) and the maintenance of environmental and cultural assets. Further, water is critical to the planned expansion of the resources sector, through the DSD’s Plan for Accelerating Exploration initiative 2020 (PACE), which is intended to generate significant economic value to South Australia. G-FLOWS supports the PACE initiative.

Our response

Groundwater surface mapping influencing water policy

The Goyder Institute’s research for the G-FLOWS project has led to the refinement of techniques used to reinterpret airborne electromagnetic data. This, in turn, has enabled the development of detailed groundwater surface maps of the Eyre Peninsula and Musgrave Province in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.

These groundwater surface maps allow for the identification of high yield, deep water sources in APY lands and building trust with local indigenous communities.

The results

Water security and improved mining exploration

The impacts of this work include:

  • Reduced need for exploratory drilling for water and minerals (reduced cost and impact on communities and environment)
  • Improved water security for remote Indigenous communities
  • Opportunities for mineral exploration and economic development of the region (mining and the pastoral industry).

The present value of total benefits from G-FLOWS Stages 1, 2 and 3 is projected to be $974.9 million in 2017-18 dollars under a 7 per cent real discount rate. The benefit-cost ratio (BCR), is estimated at 65.9.

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