Great Artesian Basin

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The Great Artesian Basin provides the only reliable source of freshwater through much of inland Australia.[1] The basin is the largest and deepest artesian basin in the world, stretching over a total of 1,711,000 square kilometres (661,000 sq mi), with temperatures measured ranging from 30°C to 100°C.[1] It underlies 23% of the continent, including most of Queensland, the south-east corner of the Northern Territory, the north-east part of South Australia, and northern New South Wales. The basin is 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) deep in places and is estimated to contain 64,900 cubic kilometres (15,600 cu mi) of groundwater.[2] The Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee (GABCC)[3] coordinates activity between the various levels of government and community organisations.

Contents

Physiography

This area is one of the distinct physiographic provinces of the larger East Australian Basins division, and includes the smaller Wilcannia Threshold physiographic section.

Geology

The water of the GAB is held in a sandstone layer laid down by continental erosion of higher ground during the Triassic, Jurassic, and early Cretaceous periods. During a time when much of what is now inland Australia was below sea level, the sandstone was then covered by a layer of marine sedimentary rock shortly afterwards, which formed a confining layer - thus trapping water in the sandstone aquifer. The eastern edge of the basin was uplifted when the Great Dividing Range formed. The other side was created from the landforms of the Central Eastern Lowlands and the Great Western Plateau to the west.

Most recharge water enters the rock formations from relatively high ground near the eastern edge of the basin (in Queensland and New South Wales) and very gradually flows towards the south and west.[4] A much smaller amount enters along the western margin in arid central Australia, flowing to the south and east. Because the sandstones are permeable, water gradually makes its way through the pores between the sand grains, flowing at a rate of one to five metres per year.

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