Water for the Future – Fact sheet
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
Broken Hill's water supply is piped from the Darling River, with large volumes of water also stored at Menindee Lakes to secure the town's water supply in times of drought.
Parched earth at the Broken Hill managed aquifer recharge project site
Menindee Lakes are located in a hot, dry and windy environment. Current management of the Lakes sees a large amount of the stored water lost to evaporation.
Reducing evaporation at Menindee Lakes is possible by changing the current management of the Lakes, but Broken Hill's water supply would need to become less reliant on the Lakes. This is the focus of the Australian Government's Menindee Lakes commitment.
This commitment aims to reduce evaporation losses at Menindee Lakes, secure Broken Hill's water supply, protect the local environment and heritage, and return up to 200 gigalitres (GL) of water to the environment.
The Broken Hill Managed Aquifer Recharge (BHMAR) project is investigating whether an aquifer could reduce Broken Hill's reliance on the Menindee Lakes.
Following an initial phase of extensive geophysical surveys of potential aquifer targets, a second phase of the project involving drilling test bores and testing water quality is now underway.
Geoscience Australia is undertaking the technical aspect of this project and doing so in accordance with the Australian guidelines for managed aquifer recharge.
At least three years water supply (30 GL) would need to be available at all times for a local aquifer to be viable for Broken Hill.
Technical work to date has involved:
- an airborne electromagnetic (AEM) survey totalling 31,834 km of survey lines, using the SkyTEM system
- LiDAR (light detection and ranging) data acquisition
- drilling of more than 60 boreholes to collect geological core material and constructing monitoring bores
- core sampling of about 60 boreholes, totalling 4,500m of drilling, with more than 1000 samples to be tested for grain size, density, pore fluid salinity and chemistry
- down hole geophysics logging of project bores to help process airborne electromagnetic data and hydrogeological interpretation
- water quality sampling
- analysis of surface geomorphology, and
- remote sensing mapping with field validation.
Interim results of the Broken Hill Managed Aquifer Recharge project
Aquifer test bore drilling
Source: M. Lindquist - SEWPaC
The project has found more than 1,200 GL of potential managed aquifer recharge storage, within 20km of the existing Menindee-Broken Hill pipeline.
There are seven potential aquifer targets, at depths that vary from 10m to 150m.
Some of the aquifer targets already contain water, with initial field data suggesting they have potential as a groundwater supply.
A priority aquifer has been identified and a more detailed assessment of its potential for managed aquifer recharge, based on the aquifer location, hydrochemistry and size, is underway.
The Australian Government is funding the investigation into the priority aquifer.
The results of this work will inform a joint decision by the Australian and NSW governments, as to whether a sustainable groundwater extraction approach (potentially including managed aquifer recharge) will secure Broken Hill's water supply in times of drought.
Technical investigations into using the priority aquifer are part of the next phase of the BHMAR project, which includes:
- characterising the priority aquifer in 3D using integration, analysis and interpretation of airborne electromagnetic, hydrogeological and geospatial data
- pumping and injection tests, geochemical and solute transport modelling, assessing clogging issues and analysing water chemicals
- assessing options and conceptual design of a managed aquifer recharge at the target aquifer, and
- estimating water treatment requirements and indicative costs.
These investigations will provide vital information needed before a decision can be taken to proceed with design and construction of an aquifer-based water supply. The investigation is an investment in Broken Hill's future to provide a secure long-term water supply for the community and local industries.
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