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Potential groundwater resources found in APY Lands palaeovalley

Feb 28, 2019
Author: Goyder Institute


An ancient groundwater system has yielded water for the first time since its discovery in a remote part of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands located in north western South Australia. 

The discovery arose through a drilling program conducted by the Department for Environment and Water (DEW) as part of the Goyder Institute for Water Research’s Facilitating Long-term Outback Water Solutions (G-FLOWS) research project . G-FLOWS brings together a project team of over 20 staff with expertise in hydrogeology, hydrology, geophysics, groundwater modelling, spatial analysis and programming from CSIRO, Flinders University, Geological Survey of SA and DEW to help map groundwater resources in the remote area.

Water is scarce in the low rainfall APY Lands. Local shallow groundwater resources support Indigenous communities but little is known about the security of supply or regional water source options. Communities in this region rely on these groundwater systems to supply water for their use (both non-potable and potable) and economic purposes, including road building, pastoral and agriculture and potentially mining or other developments.

Eleven wells have been drilled to date in the targeted palaeovalley and they show relatively high yields and low salinity groundwater (<1000 mg/L). The water-bearing formation is buried under tens of meters of ancient sediments and was located using a geophysical model of the area developed from airborne electromagnetic (AEM) survey data.

Watch the G-FLOWS drilling team in action

CSIRO developed the model and will conduct further ground-based geophysical surveys across the palaeovalley to help refine the model’s capacity to predict the location and volume of groundwater resources in the region. Scientists from DEW and Flinders University have been sampling and testing the groundwater and their results will help further understand the groundwater resource and hydrogeological processes. The project is due for completion in mid-2019.

The team’s new methodology guides the most effective and low-risk options for assessing the potential for suitable groundwater resources in remote, arid and data poor regions. These techniques will not only help to locate and characterise groundwater sources in the APY Lands – they can be used to search for deep groundwater resources in other remote landscapes across Australia and internationally.

Contact project leader Adrian Costar (DEW) for more information.