Closer look at upper Darling River region

Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

Joint media release with the Member for Parkes the Hon Mark Coulton MP and NSW Minister for Regional NSW the Hon Paul Toole MP

Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt today announced that new light will be shed on the potential for additional groundwater resources in the upper Darling River region as part of the $225 million Exploring for the Future program.

In the coming months Geoscience Australia, in collaboration with the NSW Government, will commence an airborne electromagnetic (AEM) survey across this section of north-west New South Wales to better understand the location of groundwater resources and their movement beneath the floodplain and its surrounds.

Geoscience Australia is compiling existing data as well as collecting new data over the coming months that will support future water resource management in the region.

“This $1.7 million investment from the Commonwealth Government will further improve our understanding of the way surface and groundwater interacts across the highly complex Murray-Darling Basin system, improving water security for communities across the region as well as for the agriculture and resources industries,” Minister Pitt said.

“Having already seen the value of the geological data that has come from the Exploring for the Future program since its commencement in 2016 we are committed to deepening and expanding the picture that we are building of Australia’s mineral, energy and groundwater resource potential.

“Covering more than 30,000 square kilometres, this high-resolution survey will be flown at 250 metres to five-kilometre line spacing, with the instruments fitted on a light aircraft mapping variations in the natural electrical conductivity of the ground to a depth of several hundred metres.

“At a level of detail not captured before, this survey will deepen our understanding of the region’s groundwater resources.

“Surveys like this will continue to put key information in the hands of Australians, creating short, medium and long-term jobs for regional communities and enabling landholders, industry and government to make informed decisions about the management of our precious water resources.

“The survey is part of the Australian Government’s ongoing commitment to contributing to a sustainable, long-term future for Australia through an improved understanding of the nation’s mineral, energy and groundwater resource potential.

Minister for Regional New South Wales Paul Toole said the NSW Government’s near $400,000 investment in the survey was a continuation of the state’s ongoing commitment to investigate alternative water supplies.

“This airborne survey builds on the important work the NSW Government is delivering, together with the Australian Government, to help piece together a clearer picture of possible water and mineral resources, that lay deep below the Earth’s surface,” Mr Toole said.

“The high-resolution survey will offer a detailed look at the groundwater potential in the region, including a 450-kilometre stretch of the Darling River floodplain from Wilcannia upstream to Bourke and Brewarrina.

“Water security is vital to our way of life, to the region’s economy, local businesses and jobs, and we are dedicated to supporting our rural communities by continuing to make this one of our top priorities.

“Communities in the upper Darling River region have faced severe drought and floods and in periods of low flow, groundwater in the area could possibly be an alternative water source to help householders and businesses weather the peaks and troughs.”

Federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton, said the project complements current Government programs to ensure water security in the region.

“Exciting projects like this have great potential to provide long-term water supply to our towns and farming communities. It is important to maintain this great way of life we enjoy and grow the region’s economy,” Mr Coulton said.

“Our Government is committed to range programs like the Off Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme that ensure every drop of water is valued.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the results of this hi-tech survey that can make a real difference to our future water security.”

AEM surveys have and will continue to play a critical role in building a clear picture of Australia’s resource potential. The data from this survey will be made publicly available via the online Exploring for the Future Data Discovery Portal.

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