WA Government hopes to find new groundwater source

Posted 14 September 2017

Drilling wells to access groundwaterThe Western Australian Government has launched an investigation into the availability of groundwater sources in north Kununurra after a soil survey on the Bonaparte Plains identified almost 30,000ha of land suited to farming. 

Hydrologist Research Officer Don Bennett told ABC Online that initial results from the groundwater drilling program are looking promising, given the aim to turn the Bonaparte Plains soil into productive agricultural land.

"We're getting a sense there's plenty of very good quality groundwater under that area and fairly high-yielding zones within that aquifer that you could potentially pump from," Bennett said.

"We're two sites into an eight-site program and we've been up there drilling with the crew from the Northern Territory's Department of Environment and Natural Resources, because the aquifer in the Bonaparte area extends east across the border, so they've got an interest as well.”

Bennett said the primary issue at play is ensuring groundwater extraction of irrigated farming is environmentally sustainable.

"I guess the big question at the end of the day is how much water you could actually extract for irrigated agriculture without having an impact on the surrounding environment,” he said. 

The Bonaparte Plains would require its own water source – being too far from the existing Ord Irrigation Scheme – highlighting the importance of the government's resource risk assessment.  

Bennett said the study will be used to develop a groundwater model in order to predict risks and impacts. The assessment is expected to be complete by next year.

Soil in the Bonaparte Plains is suited to a wide range of crops, but Kimberley Agricultural Investment is keen to see the land used to launch a cotton industry in the region. 
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