Great Artesian Basin

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Find more on the Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee

​​​The Great Artesian Basin (GAB) is one of the largest underground water reservoirs in the world. It underlies approximately 22% of Australia—occupying more than 1.7 million square kilometres beneath the arid and semi-arid parts of Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Draft Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan 2018

Public consultation on the Draft Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan 2018 (the draft plan 2018) is now closed. To download public submissions made through the public consultation period, please visit the Have Your Say web page.


Have your say

The draft Plan 2018 has been developed by the Australian, state and territory governments, and the Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee.

The draft Plan 2018 builds on the outcomes and actions of the first Strategic Management Plan agreed in 2000 and takes a principle based approach to guiding governments, industry and the community in managing this important resource together. It aims to address outstanding management issues and guide decisions that respond to emerging issues and challenges.

Water issues in the Great Artesian Basin

See description above.  

Great Artesian Basin—map [PDF – 722 KB]

Water emerges naturally from the Basin through cracks in the rock encasing the water, into springs, shallow water tables or into creeks and rivers creating a permanent water source even during dry periods. Most springs and leakages occur on the edges of the Basin where water is close to the surface.

It was recognised by the early 1900s that control over GAB groundwater was inadequate and there was a reduction in water pressure and volume due to the increasing number of bores drilled that were allowed to flow uncontrolled into open drains and creeks for distribution to stock. However, even in well-maintained drains up to 95% of this water can be wasted through evaporation and seepage.

Uncontrolled flow from bores and open earth bore drains in the GAB threatens the health of important groundwater-dependent ecosystems and continued access to artesian water by pastoralists.

In addition, it has become difficult for new water users in or near the GAB to obtain access to groundwater resources.

The waste of water is causing environmental damage through:

  • reduced pressure in some naturally occurring artesian springs
  • encouragement of the spread of pest plants and animals
  • land and water salinisation.

Economic Output of Groundwater Dependent Sectors in the Great Artesian Basin

The Economic Output of Groundwater Dependent Sectors in the Great Artesian Basin Report was released by the Department of Agriculture and Water resources on 22 August 2016. The report examines the significant economic value generated by the Great Artesian Basin water resources.

Interim Great Artesian Basin Infrastructure Investment Programme

On 12 May 2017 the Australian government announced $8 million in funding for water infrastructure improvements in the Great Artesian Basin for two years to 2018-19 through an Interim Great Artesian Basin Infrastructure Investment Program

Great Artesian Basin Groundwater project

The government has allocated $6.5 million to improve understanding of the groundwater system and water balance in the Great Artesian Basin using pilot studies in the northern Surat Basin and western Eromanga Basin.

The project will use supercomputers and satellite technology to investigate:

  • how water enters the Basin from rainfall
  • how the water is used
  • how much water is held in storage.

The Great Artesian Basin contains most of Australia’s fresh water and lies beneath nearly a quarter of the continent. Groundwater from the Basin is a vital resource for pastoral, agricultural, and extractive industries as well as for town water supplies. It sustains a range of unique groundwater dependent ecosystems, and supports traditional Indigenous values. This project will be used to better manage this vital groundwater resource.  

The project will be led by Geoscience Australia in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian National University and state and territory government water agencies from Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales and Northern Territory.

Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan Review

The Australian and state/territory governments completed a review of the Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan 2000 in 2015.

Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative

To assist in improving pressure in the Basin, the Australian, New South Wales, South Australian and Queensland governments provided funding through the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative (GABSI).

Further information



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Last reviewed: 4 February 2020
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