Upper Darling River floodplain groundwater study

Communities, industries and the environment in the upper Darling River region have been impacted by recent droughts and floods. During periods of low flow in the Darling River, groundwater has the potential to be an alternative water source for towns, agriculture and mining.

The aim of the upper Darling River floodplain groundwater study is to identify and better understand groundwater supplies beneath the floodplain and its surrounds. When combined with innovative water storage options, these groundwater resources could provide enhanced drought security and promote regional development.

The study area covers about 31,000 square kilometres and includes a 450 kilometre stretch of the Darling River floodplain from Wilcannia upstream to Bourke and Brewarrina.

During the study we are compiling existing data as well as collecting new data to better understand groundwater in the region. Working with our state partners in the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment, the study will form the basis of an integrated understanding of surface water - groundwater interactions, groundwater quality and aquifer systems beneath the upper Darling River floodplain.

What are the project’s aims?

The upper Darling River floodplain is important for grazing and agriculture, both for regional NSW and for Australia. By the end of this study we hope to have information to better manage drought conditions:

  • identify new fresh groundwater resources beneath the upper Darling River floodplain
  • deliver integrated groundwater data to help manage water resources
  • find potential places to store freshwater underground using Managed Aquifer Recharge to provide ongoing and emergency supplies for towns and industries
  • reduce risks to surface water and high-quality groundwater from salty groundwater
  • improve the effectiveness of salt interception schemes and understand how weirs affect groundwater resources.

What are we doing?

During the project you may see us gathering new data. We collect this information in order to help us better understand groundwater resources. Prior to the collection of new data we will seek consent from landholders/owners and engage with communities in accordance with state and federal legislation.

While collecting data, we will not enter private property without permission and notification, and we will share any information that we collect with landholders and communities. Examples of new data collection may include:

  • flying an airborne electromagnetic (AEM) survey
  • drilling new groundwater bores for monitoring purposes
  • acquiring on-ground and downhole geophysics data such as magnetic resonance and electrical conductivity
  • sampling groundwater bores for hydrochemistry
  • installing groundwater data loggers
  • undertaking satellite analysis of water in the landscape (with Digital Earth Australia)
  • mapping the geology and aquifer systems.

Airborne electromagnetic (AEM) survey: Upper Darling River region, March – June 2022

Geoscience Australia will be carrying out an AEM survey in the upper Darling River region from March to June 2022, in collaboration with the NSW State Government.

More information

Due to the limited audience of this diagram and its complexity, no alternative description has been provided. Please email clientservices@ga.gov.au

Map showing proposed Upper Darling River region AEM survey area

Important to know

All data produced by Geoscience Australia, including the data from this project, will be made publicly available after quality assurance has been performed at the Geoscience Australia Community and Education Portal.

All Geoscience Australia staff and contractors will be complying with Geoscience Australia’s COVID-19 protocols, available upon request.

Contact us