Facilitating Long-term Outback Water Solutions (G-FLOWS)

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Project Partners:

CSIRO, The University of Adelaide, Flinders University, and SARDI

Research Theme:

Water for Industry


Project Overview

Water is a critical resource for the growth and sustainability of the resources sector, particularly in outback regions of South Australia. This includes potable and non-potable sources that are used in ore-processing, slurry transport, dust suppression, human water consumption and in the maintenance of environmental and cultural assets. Planned and potential mining and energy development in South Australia’s arid zones will require reliable water supplies primarily sourced from groundwater aquifers. Given that the resource sector generates significant economic value to South Australia, industry support remains a priority for the Government. The scale of the planned developments and the potential from current exploration programs facilitated by the South Australian Government through the Plan for accelerating exploration initiative (PACE 2020) will result in a substantial increase in infrastructure requirements. These requirements may include access to water resources and Aboriginal lands for exploration and potential mine developments.

In response to this increasing demand for information about water source options, the Goyder Institute for Water research (Goyder Institute) developed the Facilitating Long-Term Outback Water Solutions (G-FLOWS) research project. G-FLOWS sought to complement work being undertaken by the Department of Environment, Water and National Resources (DEWNR), by focusing in more detail on previously identified priority areas for resource development as defined by the Department for Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy (DMITRE). These areas include the Musgrave Province, the north east and north west Gawler Craton, parts of the Frome Embayment in the east, and the northern Eyre Peninsula.

Progress Update and Key Findings

G-FLOWS Stage-1 incorporated 10 tasks, and these combined to address the overall project objectives. In

broad terms, the project delivered against the objectives in the following ways:

  • Adapt, apply and test methods and techniques for combining topographic and airborne geophysical datasets, leading to the development of a hydrogeological framework for the Musgrave Province.
  • A review of key water values in arid zones of South Australia, identify attributes for each value and threats to these attributes. 
  • Combination of recharge modelling work across arid Far North South Australia, supported by field trip APY Lands (Musgrave Province) to collect groundwater samples for chemistry and environmental tracer analysis. This allowed groundwater residence times and aquifer properties to be better defined in the area.
  • Collation and enhancement of multiple spatial datasets in the Musgrave Province, to provide best available information of groundwater, aquifer characteristics and variability. 
  • Development of a processing and inversion strategy for employing historical and contemporary EM data affected by system uncertainties and errors, to produce calibrated data for hydrogeological assessment. This was undertaken in the Frome Embayment using fixed‐wing and helicopter TDEM datasets acquired between 2000 and 2012.

Project Impacts

The G-FLOWS project was developed as program of research to supplement information and knowledge being developed by DEWNR under the Finding Long-term Water Solutions (FLOWS) Initiative. The initiative wide-ranging suite of programs:

  • Groundwater assessments in non-prescribed regions of the State;
  • A project assessing mound springs in the Great Artesian Basin (GAB);
  • An assessment of the potential impact of climate change on water resources across the State; and
  • A groundwater assessment of the Arckaringa Basin and Pedirka Basin under the Commonwealth-funded Australian Government initiative on coal seam gas and large coal mining.

Research under G-FLOWS hs provided key knowledge and conceptual understanding for the FLOWS Initiative to inform the accessibility and viability of the State’s groundwater resources. The knowledge has also provided the State with an appropriate science base, information packages and tools to encourage and secure development where appropriate and enable prudent decision making and polices regarding water allocation, water accounting, and water licensing whilst ensuring the protection of dependent ecosystems and environmental assets.

G-FLOWS Stage-1 has developed and applied techniques to analyse airborne geophysical data to identify groundwater resources. It used multiple data sources to bring together a comprehensive current conceptual model of the hydrogeology in the Musgrave Province. This harnessed remotely-sensed datasets, with on-ground and borehole measurements, to provide a much greater sense of the subsurface variability in the area. This will allow finer-scale investigations to be more precisely targeted with respect to likely groundwater resources in this area.

Research Outputs

Hydrogeological review of the Musgrave Province, South Australia

Environmental and cultural values of South Australia's outback water resources

Groundwater assessment and aquifer characterizarion in Musgrave Province, South Australia: Interpretation of SPECTREM Airborne Electromagnetic Data

Facilitating Long Term Outback Water Solutions (G-FLOWS) Task 6: Groundwater recharge characteristics across key priority areas

Facilitating Long-term Outback Water Solutions (G-FLOWS Stage-1) Final Report

Project News