On the mainland, conventional and unconventional mining is continuing apace, despite the knowledge that the Great Artesian Basin is in danger of being de-pressurised. Almost 80 percent of the basin's critical recharging area is covered by gas, petroleum or CSG leases.
The Great Artesian Basin contains 65,000 cubic kms of groundwater, accumulated over geologic time from 'recharge beds' primarily around the margins of the basin. These recharge beds don't add significantly to the basin's volume, but crucially, they provide the pressure that keeps the groundwater flowing to the surface. Through a network of natural springs and bores, the basin provides water for towns and farms across 22 per cent of Australia.
A recent study from Queensland University shows that drilling is significantly reducing the natural hydraulic pumping pressure, which could cumulatively be enough to stop bores flowing in the basin. If the basin is drained beyond its natural ability to regenerate itself, large scale environmental and social problems are a certainty.
If mining causes the pressure to drop, pumps will be required to move water to the surface - costing billions of dollars. Is the industry asked to provide an answer to the question of who will foot this bill?