Water for 300 years, at current consumption: What if we want more?

p2145waterbasinsMereenie

 

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

 

The Amadeus Basin Groundwater System, from which Alice Springs draws its water, should continue to sustain current extraction rates for about 300 years, says a spokesman for the Department of Land Resource Management.

 

 

It has released to the Alice Springs News Online planning scenarios for four aquifers which are managed under the Alice Springs Water Allocation Plan and which are “part of the very large regional Amadeus Basin Groundwater System”.

 

 

The spokesman says “increased extraction” is now under consideration: “In the course of further consultation and discussion with Alice Springs community about review and possible revision of the Water Allocation Plan, it is intended that other scenarios which would include the possibility for increased extraction rates in future years from the Amadeus Basin Groundwater System can be explored.”

 

 

“This review process will allow the community to understand more clearly the extent to which the current planning horizon of year 2300 would be brought forward if increased extractions rates were to occur.

 

 

“The department is working towards completion of a revised Alice Springs Water Allocation Plan in coming months,” the spokesman says.

 

 

The News has also asked the department how much water is contained in the sections of the Amadeus system not currently part of the plan, what reserves are there likely to be in addition to the Amadeus system, and how much money is being spent on further exploration. We will publish this information when it is to hand.

 

 

The Springs Water Allocation Plan covers:–

 

 

• The Town Basin, Inner Farm Basin, Outer Farm Basin and Wangardi Basin – all alluvial aquifers with relatively limited yield potentials that are managed sustainably within long term recharge levels; and

 

 

• The Pacoota Formation Aquifer, Shannon Formation Aquifer and Mereenie Aquifer – all of which are managed by long term depletion of aquifer storage.

 

 

 

The following aquifers of the Amadeus Basin Groundwater System are managed under the plan:-

 

 

Pacoota Formation Aquifer in the Roe Creek management zone is used for the public water supply and there is no stock & domestic use.
In 1964, the storage in Pacoota Formation Aquifer in this area is estimated to have been 430,000ML.
The allowable total extraction from this aquifer over the period to at least 2064 (100 years) is 80% of 430,000ML – that is to say, the initial consumptive pool for the Pacoota Formation Aquifer was 344,000ML in 1964.
Between 1964 and 2005, total extraction from the Pacoota Formation Aquifer for public water supply is estimated to have been 30,000ML.
In 2005, therefore, 9% of the consumptive pool had been used and 91% – or 314,000ML remained for future extraction.
Maximum licensed extraction for public water supply from the Pacoota Formation Aquifer is 4,000ML/year.
The remaining consumptive pool at 2005 would sustain constant extraction at 4,000ML/year until year 2084.

 

 

Shannon Formation Aquifer in the Roe Creek management zone is used for the public water supply and stock & domestic use is estimated to be 17ML/year.
In 1964, the storage in Shannon Formation Aquifer in this area is estimated to have been 320,000ML.
The allowable total extraction from this aquifer over the period to at least 2064 (100 years) is 80% of 320,000ML – that is to say, the initial consumptive pool for the Shannon Formation Aquifer was 241,600ML in 1964.
Between 1964 and 2005, total extraction from the Shannon Formation Aquifer for public water supply and stock & domestic use is estimated to have been 2,000ML.
In 2005, therefore, 0.8% of the consumptive pool had been used and 99.2% – or 239,600ML remained for future extraction.
Maximum licensed extraction for public water supply from the Shannon Formation Aquifer is 1,000ML/year and there is an addition 17ML/year unlicensed stock & domestic use.
The remaining consumptive pool at 2005 would sustain constant extraction at 1,017ML/year until year 2245.

 

 

Mereenie Aquifer is managed in two separate – but connecting – management zones: Roe Creek Management Zone and Rock Hill Management Zone.

 

 

Mereenie Aquifer in the Roe Creek management zone is used for the public water supply and there is no stock & domestic use.
In 1964, the storage in Mereenie Aquifer in this area is estimated to have been 1,314,000ML.
The allowable total extraction from this aquifer over the period to at least 2064 (100 years) is 80% of 1,314,000ML  – that is to say, the initial consumptive pool for the Mereenie Aquifer in Roe Creek Management Zone was 1,051,200ML in 1964.
Between 1964 and 2005, total extraction from the Mereenie Formation Aquifer in Roe Creek Management Zone for public water supply is estimated to have been 254,000ML.
In 2005, therefore, 19% of the consumptive pool had been used and 81% – or 797,200ML remained for future extraction.
Maximum licensed extraction for public water supply from the Mereenie Formation Aquifer in Roe Creek Management Zone is currently 8,000ML/year.
From around 2084 it may be necessary to increase extraction by 4,000ML/year because no further extraction from the Pacoota Formation will be available.
The remaining consumptive pool at 2005 would sustain constant extraction at 8,000ML/year until 2084 and then constant extraction at 12,000ML/year until year 2097.

 

 

 

Mereenie Aquifer in the Rocky Hill management zone is currently used for the agriculture and stock & domestic use is estimated to be 87ML/year.
In 1964, the storage in Mereenie Aquifer in this area is estimated to have been 3,755,000ML.
The allowable total extraction from this aquifer over the period to at least 2064 (100 years) is 80% of 3,755,000ML – that is to say, the initial consumptive pool for the Mereenie Aquifer in Rocky Hill Management Zone was 3,004,00ML in 1964.
Between 1964 and 2005, total extraction from the Mereenie Formation Aquifer in Rocky Hill Management Zone is estimated to have been 5,000ML.
In 2005, therefore, 0.1% of the consumptive pool had been used and 99.9% – or 3,750,000ML remained for future extraction.
Maximum licensed extraction from the Mereenie Formation Aquifer in Rocky Hill Management Zone is currently 1,000ML/year.
From around 2097 it may be necessary to increase extraction by 12,000ML/year because no further extraction from the Mereenie Aquifer in Roe Creek Management Zone will be available.
From around 2245 it may be necessary to increase extraction by a further 1,000ML/year because no further extraction from the Shannon Formation in Roe Creek Management Zone will be available.
The remaining consumptive pool at 2005 would sustain constant extraction at 1,000ML/year until 2097 and then constant extraction at 13,000ML/year until year 2245 and then constant extraction at 14,000ML/year until year 2310.

 

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6 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Lockedout
    Posted July 17, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    The interesting thing is that all governments at the moment are only interested in the dollars not our future. You can not tell me that they are not getting money for all this. They are swimming in it for our future. The Chinese see it coming they are buying up our country. The price of food will soon be much higher than any gas, and more valuable, too.
    If only this country could have pollies who care for us not big business. Have a look how much they have spent on mines – over 4 billion in the NT to mines. If they can’t afford it, why are we paying for them?

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  2. Posted July 3, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Fracking in the Amadeus Basin for the extraction of oil and gas is not a new idea. Serious consideration was given for this in the late 1960s; indeed, Magellan Petroleum formally applied to do so in 1967 pending the result of tests conducted in the USA.
    Just one twist to the story – the method proposed back then was to use underground nuclear detonations to fracture the rock formations.
    The first test in America was conducted on December 10, 1967, and worked brilliantly but for one major hassle – the gas was contaminated with highly radioactive substances and could not be safely used. Two further tests confirmed the initial result. Oh well, back to the drawingboard.

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  3. Melanie Ross
    Posted July 1, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Given the record of the Minister and the Water Controller with handing over our water to their political mates for nothing in the Top End, Territorians should have no faith that any sort of fair and transparent process will apply here.
    But I’m sure the same old shrill voices will start banging on about our “endless” water supplies and how any attempt at managing access is interfering with their God-given right to get as much water to their bits of land as they want.
    Watch this space as to who gets what in Central Australia. There’s been little payoff so far for many of the CLP’s drum bangers and donors in the Centre and many are waiting to dive into this potential money maker.

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  4. Hal Duell
    Posted June 28, 2014 at 9:01 am

    If anyone can tell me how fracking for energy in the Amadeus Basin can be justified in view of that basin being our only source of water both now and in the future, I would like to hear it.
    Perhaps the Amadeus Basin is not our only source of water?
    Perhaps extraction of energy by fracking has improved to the point where we can believe that there is no danger whatsoever to the underground water resources in the vicinity of the fracks?
    Anyone?

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  5. Janet Brown
    Posted June 27, 2014 at 11:17 am

    @ed who is the spokesman for the department. A name to this info would be helpful.
    [ED – Hand on my heart, Janet, he is a dinky-di, bona fide spokesman for the department.]

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  6. Posted June 27, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Thanks for the figures Erwin. The question is, what impact will the potential 12 679 fracking wells that the NT Government Department of Mines and Energy suggests is possible in the Amadeus Basin (see page 13 http://www.hydraulicfracturinginquiry.nt.gov.au/public_submissions_dme20140530.pdf) in coming decades?

    The consumptive use of humans and stock in the region are minuscule compared to the impact of one faulty gas well or one frack that goes bad. These figures of 300 years is based on no industrial uses of the water. The use of water upstream in the Amadeus Basin will undoubtedly have impacts on the sustainable yield and timeframes estimated for sustainable water use in Alice Springs.

    It is critical that we have conservative water plans out here as we rely solely on the water below the ground. If petroleum companies are sucking up tens of millions of litres per frack with each one having the potential to pollute the aquifer. This is why ALEC is calling for a moratorium on fracking in the NT until a water planning framework is in place and the results of the Hydraulic Fracturing Inquiry is complete. Anything less than this is irresponsible at best and culpable at worst.

    Groundwater is the lifeblood of the NT, particularly Central Australia. Don’t be bamboozled by the numbers – there are competing interests for our water resources and this is playing out behind closed doors in Darwin. Alice Springs had one of the most progressive water plans in the country up until last March – it was conservative, but it needs to be. Let’s hope Minister Westra Van Holthe and his Chief Executive and Water Controller Rod Applegate can get the balance right between the competing interests of humans, animals and petroleum companies for the requisite environmental flows of groundwater. It a contested space and it must be difficult to manage competing and conflicting interests. We will see in coming months whether these gentlemen will manage our water for the benefit of current and future generations or flog it off to party donors and vested interests for the short-term profit of a very few.

    These are the questions we must continue to ask to ensure that the transparency of process and accountability of decision-makers is as clear as we expect our water to be.

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