This project aims to inform the public, planning and policy for future resource planning of the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) — an important but finite water resource.
The GAB is one of the largest underground water reservoirs in the world and one of Australia's most precious resources, driving economic development in more than 120 towns. A report by Frontier Economics Pty Ltd Australia in 2016 estimated that GAB water is integral to at least $12.8 billion of annual production across multiple industries including agriculture, mining, coal seam gas (CSG).
The development of the CSG industry in Queensland, particularly in the Surat Basin, has significantly improved scientific understanding of the Surat portion of the GAB; however, this knowledge is not all published, and some is not peer reviewed. This makes it difficult for researchers, decision makers and general public to find the latest information and assess whether it is scientifically robust.
As outlined in NERA's Sector Competitiveness Plan, the sustainability of the energy resources sector requires engagement and support from the community to build a strong social licence to operate. Energy resources underpin the Australian economy, and a sustainable and energised industry is a fundamental part of Australia's future.
Constructive and respectful engagement on social, environmental and economic sector impacts is needed to address community concerns, whether by providing independent robust information or finding solutions to the issues raised by stakeholders.
This project has established a team of independent reviewers and contributors to document the latest work on the aquifers of the Surat Basin and broader GAB. It has published a peer-reviewed evidence-based body of knowledge for the GAB to inform how to best manage this finite water resource into the future.
To ensure the research gets straight into the hands of the right people, UQ teamed up with key industry publication, the Hydrogeology Journal, to publish the entire series in a special issue of the journal which was released in February 2020. The Hydrogeology Journal is the key industry scientific journal of the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH).
The project now moves into a second phase, focussed on creating resources to help inform the broader public. This will include a new website to house a series of factsheets and digital resources. A key component is establishing partnerships to ensure the project complements government and community-led GAB information programs.
Through community information sessions, high profile publications, expert workshops and a planned media strategy, this project will bring community perceptions up to date and in line with scientific findings.
The material will become the primary, up-to-date source of evidence on the nature of the GAB representing research from universities, CSIRO, industry and government.
The evidence-based body of knowledge combined with the science communication plan will inform how to best manage this finite water resource into the future, leading to:
"Having conducted some research in the distant past on flowing bore casing performance in the GAB of parts of western Queensland, I can safely say: the Great Artesian Basin issue of the latest Hydrogeology Journal is superb. I am most encouraged that so many Australian hydrogeologists are able to contribute such high quality papers. This augers well for the future."