About Mound Springs

Cross section of a Mound Spring, simplified
Cross section of a Mound Spring, simplified

Mound springs are natural outlets for the waters of the Great Artesian Basin (GAB), where artesian pressure forces water to the surface. Most springs occur through fractures and faults on the margins of the Basin in the Far North of South Australia, north-western NSW and south-western Queensland. There are other springs further into the GAB, such as Dalhousie Springs in Far North South Australia, where water rises to the surface through geological fractures.

Most of the springs have only small flows or seepages, but one at Dalhousie has a daily output of around fourteen million litres per day.

The term mound springs reflects the characteristic mounds that have developed at many (but not all) of the springs. In some areas the mounds have been building for thousands of years. Spring flows were stronger in the geological past.

The precipitation of salts and minerals, along with the accumulation of wind-blown sediments from the surrounding country, has created the mounds.

The Great Artesian Basin

The Great Artesian Basin underlies 22% of Australia and is one of the largest groundwater basins in the world. The aquifers of the Basin can be up to 3,000 metres deep. With water moving laterally through the Basin at only one to three metres per annum, the waters are up to two million years old, but the Basin is also very complex with some sub basins having little or no current water movement.

Replenishment (recharge) of the GAB occurs mainly along the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range. There is also some minor recharge around the Basin’s south western margins in South Australia.

The recharge areas are elevated well above the Basin and the result is a pressurised system where the only natural outlet for the waters is via the mound springs and a more diffuse process known as vertical leakage.

Map of the Great Artesian Basin, Australia
The Great Artesian Basin

The recharge areas are elevated well above the Basin and the result is a pressurised system where the only natural outlet for the waters is via the mound springs and a more diffuse process known as vertical leakage.

Featured Mound Springs

About South Australia’s Far North Mound Springs

It is estimated that there are approximately 5000 individual mound springs in Far North SA. These are of international importance because of their outstanding natural and cultural features. As virtual oases in the desert, the springs were, and still are, of vital importance to Indigenous people. The springs also support a range of endemic plant and animal species of enormous conservation significance. They provided essential water supplies for early European explorers and settlers and were instrumental in guiding the routes of the Overland Telegraph line and Ghan railway in the late nineteenth century.

Since bores were first sunk into the GAB over one hundred and thirty years ago it is estimated that natural flows from these springs have declined by up to 40%. There have also been impacts from introduced livestock and pest plants and animals. A number of programs are now in place to address such impacts, and the Friends of Mound Springs group is playing its part in this process.

Map of South Australia’s Far North Mound Springs
Mound Springs, Far North of South Australia

About Friends of Mound Springs

The Friends of Mound Springs (FOMS) was established in 2006, under the umbrella of the South Australian organisation Friends of Parks Inc, to support the conservation and management of the mound springs of Far North South Australia.

The Friends group has attracted widely based membership, both locally and interstate, from researchers, government personnel and others with a general interest or involvement in mound springs issues.

The group provides support for the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources in the management of springs within the Parks network (such as Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park).

The group also has a role in promoting and supporting research of mound springs in general, and in the protection of mound springs outside the parks network in collaboration with pastoral lessees and other interest groups.

The group provides a forum for disseminating information and research findings regarding the springs and promotes increased public awareness about the conservation values of the springs.

The group has assisted with surveys, walking track construction, installation of signage and protective bollards and general waste removal at the mound springs. Major projects for FOMS have been protective works at the site of the Peake Overland Telegraph station and construction of walking trails and installation of interpretive signage at both the Peake and Strangways Overland Telegraph sites. FOMS has also provided comments on proposed developments and measures that could impact adversely upon the features of the mound springs.

A central objective for FOMS is the management of mound springs to ensure that their natural and cultural heritage features are conserved and, in many cases, enhanced. During 2013 – 2016, the group participated in a major project, known as the Desert Jewels Project, with the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, to improve our knowledge about the management of mound springs and to test and promote improved management practices.

Find out more:

Blanche Cup with Mt Hamilton (extinct spring) in the background, June 2007
FOMS at Blanche Cup, with Mt Hamilton (extinct spring) in the background
FOMS volunteers installing bollards in carpark at The Peake, June 2008
FOMS volunteers installing bollards in carpark at The Peake