Development of an Adaptive Management Plan and Template for Sustainable Management of Great Artesian Basin Springs

Jensen, A. E., Lewis, S. A., and Lewis, M. M. (2020)


Great Artesian Basin (GAB) springs are unique environmental assets of international ecological, hydrogeological and cultural value, and water assets of immense economic and social significance to communities, mining and pastoralism in the arid and semi-arid regions of the GAB. Human use of GAB water has introduced threatening processes that risk compromising these important spring values. The threats include reduced spring outflows due to loss of artesian pressure and surface disturbances around spring vents and groundwater-dependent wetlands. To address these threatening processes, the GAB Adaptive Management Plan and Template have been developed using evidence-based methodologies to identify, assess and manage risks to spring groups across the GAB. The GAB Springs Adaptive Management Plan aims to ensure maintenance of artesian pressures that sustain spring flows and encourages sensitive land-use practices in and around springs to protect spring geology and ecology, while minimising disruption to current users of basin water resources. Implementation of the Adaptive Management Template requires a robust, comprehensive and interactive basin-wide database which combines all available information on spring characteristics, condition, trends, values, groundwater dependent ecosystems, risk factors and their impacts. An objective, rigorous and cost-effective basin-wide monitoring program linked to the database will be essential to assess the condition of assets and the effectiveness of management actions. The GAB Adaptive Management Plan and Template bring together relevant evidence from recent research to provide a decision framework for assessing the risks to springs and determining appropriate management actions to address those risks. It is recommended that the Plan and Template be adopted as an endorsed implementation strategy as part of the Implementation Plan for the updated National GAB Strategic Management Plan (2018–2033).