Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt was in Mildura yesterday to announce an aerial survey that aims to shed new light on our region’s groundwater resources.

Minister Pitt, who was joined by Member for Mallee Anne Webster, said that new research to be carried out around Mildura and funded by a Federal Government exploration program, aims to help the region become more drought resilient.

“As part of the next phase of our $225 million Exploring for the Future program, residents in the Mildura area may see planes towing some things that look a bit weird − carrying specialised equipment − flying overhead over coming months searching for precious groundwater,” Minister Pitt said.

“The technology will collect airborne electromagnetic (AEM) data that will be used to create a 3D picture of geology deep below the Earth’s surface – similar to a medical CT scan, and used routinely in scientific studies to better understand the location of groundwater.”

Minster Pitt said this work will help to better understand the Lower Murray-Darling Basin system, enhancing water security for all users.

“It is part of a broader project across south-east Australia that will also improve drought resilience for communities of the mid-to-upper Darling region, from east of Menindee to Brewarrina, by identifying potential potable groundwater resources,” he said.

The survey will be undertaken by Geoscience Australia.

“Geoscience Australia will also look for sites suitable for managed aquifer recharge, which can help restore groundwater levels,” the Minister said.

“The reality is you’ll never know what’s there if you don’t look.”

Dr Webster said the project would benefit communities in the region particularly in times of drought.

“This aerial survey will improve our understanding of the area’s hydrogeology and give land managers another tool to help manage water in the basin sustainably,” she said.

“The Murray-Darling Basin is a highly complex system and the more we learn about how groundwater and surface water interact within it, the better we can manage this vital resource into the future.
“I’m pleased that the Mildura region is at the forefront of this very important exploration project.”

This work is part of a larger project that will carry out scientific drilling, ground surveys and sampling across New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

While in Mildura, the Minister also officially opened the new offices of the Murray Darling Basin Authority and the Sunraysia Modernisation Project Two (SMP2).

Minister Pitt said moving more MDBA staff into regional offices in the Basin demonstrates how the Coalition Government is investing in regional jobs and local communities.

“We are committed to the growth of regional economies and the participation of Basin communities in water management decisions,” he said.

Dr Webster said Mildura now joins Murray Bridge, Griffith, Albury-Wodonga, Toowoomba, Goondiwindi, Adelaide, and Canberra with an MDBA office.

“Having an on-the-ground presence in Mildura helps the Authority develop stronger links with the communities who rely on the health of the rivers,” she said.

“Locating an office in Mildura was an election commitment that we have delivered on, ensuring decision makers for the MDBA are working and living in communities that are directly affected by their decisions.
“We are also delighted that the Minister is here to open the SMP2, and the great thing about that is, Keith actually launched the project in 2018.”