New technology helps quench arid thirst

19 May 2011

Spectrem airborne electro-magnetic system

Spectrem airborne electro-magnetic
© Geoscience Australia

New survey technology will be used for the first time in Australia to map the groundwater potential in the Western Desert region of the Northern Territory.

Using an airborne electro-magnetic system previously unused in Australia called Spectrem, the Geoscience Australia groundwater survey will measure variations in the electrical conductivity of the ground. Depending on local conditions the Spectrem will be able to successfully detect groundwater-bearing aquifer systems (such as palaeovalleys) up to several hundred meters below surface.

This geophysical investigation, known as the Western Desert AEM survey, is part of an innovative research project aimed at better understanding the characteristics of precious groundwater resources in arid Australia.

The survey will take place in the remote south-west of the Northern Territory near the West Australian border around the communities of Kintore, Nyirripi and Papunya [PDF 501KB], and will run from late-May until mid-June 2011.

Palaeovalley aquifers derive from vast ancient inland river systems and are important to many outback areas as they provide the only source of potable water supplies to support many Aboriginal communities, pastoral operations and mining enterprises.

The survey supports the Australian Government’s National Water Initiative through funding projects that improve Australia’s national capacity to measure, monitor and manage our water resources.

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