Draft Strategic Management Plan for Great Artesian Basin out for Public Comment

The Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has released for comment a draft Strategic Management Plan for the Great Artesian Basin. FOMS Executive members have reviewed the draft Strategic Management Plan and have submitted comments to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. FOMS’ main comments are summarised below:

  • The draft Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan (GABSMP) is clearly a “high-level” document. As such, the broad statements relating to GAB / mound springs are strongly supported. For example:
    • The Basin is a finite and declining resource;
    • Water extraction has had a significant impact on water pressure and flow rates of springs in certain areas;
    • The need to manage water flows, pressure and quality to support groundwater-dependent
  • While FOMS is very supportive of the above as over-arching comments, the group has a number of concerns about the
    • The Strategic Management Plan is largely devoid of strategy. It has a focus on general objectives and desired outcomes but very little guidance (strategy) on how the objectives and outcomes are to be achieved. Further, any discussion about priorities, partnerships and targets is only included in the most general
    • The draft GABSMP is focused on the hydrology of the However, there is no recognition that the conservation of groundwater-dependent ecosystems, such as GAB springs, is linked with other factors such as grazing by introduced stock and feral animals, weed invasion, introduction of non-native aquatic fauna and, in some instances, interactions with surface water flows. The vast majority of GAB springs in South Australia are on pastoral lease land and are therefore subject to ongoing grazing pressures and a similar situation applies in other states. A small number of springs on pastoral lands have been protected but most remain unprotected and a strategy is needed to address that.
    • It is acknowledged that the regulation of grazing pressure on springs is a responsibility of State jurisdictions, but the risk to springs resulting from grazing and other mechanical disturbance is a Basin-wide strategic issue that needs to be addressed in this plan.

In summary, FOMS advocates that the draft GABSMP be subject to substantial revisions to address comments such as the above and to provide a more strategic and comprehensive basis for management of the GAB and its associated ecosystems with much clearer recognition of the international significance of GAB springs.