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Water use limits in the basin

The Queensland Government manages the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) by regulating water use to protect water supplies and the environment.

There is a reserve of unallocated water set aside for future use based on a scientific assessment of how much water can be taken before water supplies and the environment are compromised.

Water is removed from the basin through natural springs and seepage, as well as by the grazing industry, petroleum and gas operators, and other users.

Learn how you can access water from the GAB and other regional aquifers.

Water use in the GAB

Users take about 315,000 megalitres (ML) per year from the basin in Queensland.

Pie chart of licensed water use in the Queensland Great Artesian Basin
Licensed water use in the Queensland Great Artesian Basin

The Great Artesian Basin contains about 65 million gigalitres of water, or the equivalent of 130,000 Sydney Harbours. The water is contained within layers of porous rock (aquifers), held in place under pressure by layers of impermeable rock.

The basin is mainly replenished along the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range, through infiltration by rainfall and leakage from streams.

Stock and domestic use

Historically, much of the water extracted from the basin has been used for watering stock and providing water to households.

In 2016, stock and domestic usage accounted for half of Queensland’s water extraction.

Over half of the water used to water stock is lost through evaporation or seeping into the ground from open bore drains.

Capping and piping programs have led to a significant decrease in the volume lost.

Resources industry

The petroleum and gas industry accounts for another fifth of Queensland’s total water usage. Water is removed as a by-product of extracting coal seam gas. Some of the extracted water can be recycled or reinjected back into an aquifer. Many mining operations (including coal and bauxite) also rely on water from the basin.

The use of water by the resources industry is regulated to minimise and manage any impacts.

Town water supply

Water from the Great Artesian Basin is critical to the survival of more than 80 regional Queensland towns, supporting commercial, government and tourism operations.

A combination of basin water and surface water is often used, but groundwater is particularly important during drought due to its reliability.

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