The Exploring for the Future East Kimberley project has investigated groundwater systems in the onshore Bonaparte Basin within the Keep River Plains in the Northern Territory (NT). Current activity includes running cattle on Legune and Spirit Hill stations, and irrigation of a range of crops in the Ord River Irrigation Area (ORIA) to the north of Kununurra. There are further proposals to expand irrigation activities to the north and east of the current ORIA, including on the Keep River Plains. The region is endowed with good road, port and energy infrastructure, with a local labour force based in Kununurra and Australia's second largest surface dam (Lake Argyle). However, additional water security is required to support further agricultural development, particularly in upland areas.
The East Kimberley project aimed to build a greater understanding of regional groundwater systems in the Keep River Plains to enable informed decision making regarding agricultural development. The project focused on the Permo-Carboniferous units of the onshore Bonaparte Basin and their significance to groundwater in overlying Cenozoic sediments as most of the proposed agricultural development areas are underlain by these units.
The East Kimberley project presents a regional assessment of groundwater processes in the onshore Bonaparte Basin and provides baseline information regarding groundwater conditions and processes that will be essential to environmental monitoring and water allocation and management if irrigated agriculture is to expand in the area.
The main objectives of the project were to:
- Identify the location, quantity and quality of new and existing groundwater resources in sedimentary basin and palaeovalley aquifers;
- Identify potential hazards to agricultural development in the Keep River Plains where a Cenozoic alluvial aquifer is present
- De-risk resource and agricultural investment, and inform water management options by providing baseline hydrogeological data.
- Hydrochemistry data
- Groundwater level monitoring data
New data acquisition
The project collected:
- 13,379 line-kilometre airborne electromagnetic and magnetic survey;
- 7,920 km2 LiDAR survey;
- Drilled new monitoring bores (sonic and mud-rotary);
- reprocessed seismic data;
- surface nuclear magnetic resonance survey sites;
- new and existing boreholes logged for induction and gamma;
- new and existing boreholes logged for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR);
- 50 groundwater and surface water hydrochemistry samples;
- >200 grainsize samples recovered from sonic drill core;
- >600 pore fluid and saturation extract chemistry samples; and
- Landscape/geomorphic mapping.
The East Kimberley Project was undertaken collaboratively with the Northern Territory Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Other key stakeholders include the Kimberley Land Council and Northern Land Council.