East Kimberley

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Map of the East Kimberley Project area showing water table contours, surface nuclear magnetic resonance soundings, newly installed monitoring bore locations, and interpreted regional groundwater flow paths. Areas of note and station boundaries are also shown.

The Exploring for the Future East Kimberley project has investigated groundwater dynamics in two sub-areas of the onshore Bonaparte Basin: the Bonaparte Plains region in Western Australia (WA), and the Keep River Plains in the Northern Territory (NT; see Figure 1). Current agricultural activity in the onshore Bonaparte Basin includes running cattle on Carlton Hill, 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 dynamics in the Keep River and Bonaparte Plains areas 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, cross-jurisdictional 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;
  • Assess the potential for managed aquifer recharge (MAR) options to provide local storage and to manage salinity and seawater intrusion; and
  • Identifying potential hazards to agricultural development in the Keep River Plains where the Cenozoic alluvial aquifer is present
  • De-risk resource and agricultural investment, and inform water management options, including infrastructure development and water banking based on baseline hydrogeological data.



Coming soon:

  • Hydrochemistry data
  • Groundwater level monitoring data
  • Borehole completion report for all bores drilled as part of the project
  • Surface nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) dataset;
  • New surface and subsurface mapping products available via the Portal; and
  • Technical reports describing the results from the project.

New data acquisition

The project collected:

  • 13,379 line-kilometre airborne electromagnetic and magnetic survey;
  • 7,920 km2 LiDAR survey;
  • Drilled 27 bores (both sonic and mud-rotary);
  • 1403 passive seismic and gravity survey sites;
  • ~450 line-kilometres of new and reprocessed seismic data;
  • 161 surface nuclear magnetic resonance survey sites;
  • 34 boreholes logged for induction and gamma;
  • 6 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 and Department of Water and Department of Agriculture and Food in Western Australia.

Other key stakeholders include the Kimberley Land Council and Northern Land Council.