Groundwater abstraction in the Roper Region, Northern Territory

Susie Macfarlane, Charlie Fairfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An assessment of the sustainability of water resources
in the Roper region’s Tindall Limestone Aquifer
(TLA) was undertaken in 2016 using neoteric data, to
ascertain a balance between maintaining the integrity
of the natural environment, while maximising the
potential of the available water resources for future
economic development. The TLA is one of the Northern
Territory’s best-quality, highest-yielding groundwater
resources (Department of Land Resource Management,
2016). The current Northern Territory Government is
committed to continuing the water allocation planning
to ensure on-going management of resources in the
region (Northern Territory Government – Draft Water
Allocation Plan, 2011).
In many Australian regions, water is allocated for
various forms of use, these allocations are based on
current and historic information (including past and
present rainfall patterns) relating to the availability of
water in the area. This information is the basis on which
water extraction licences are granted and subsequent
abstraction from ground and surface sources occurs.
When determining the capacity of an aquifer,
comprehensive bore data are essential. These bore
data are obtained from existing bores, or by drilling
new test holes, which provides recovery, yield, depth,
and drawdown information. This is valuable when
assessing both the capacity of an individual bore, and
the availability of water in the area. Collation of data from numerous bore sites combined with other data on
the Roper region will assist in determining the capacity
for water allocations, and developing a water plan to
ensure its sustainability.
Water Allocation Planning for the TLA Mataranka
began in 2008, with no WAP yet declared: to date,
19 groundwater licences appear on the Groundwater
Extraction Licence register for Tindall aquifer
(Mataranka) of which, 12 licences were granted for
agriculture (for up to a ten-year period) (Department of
Land Resource Management, 2016). Water licences give
the Northern Territory Government a mechanism with
which to reduce water allocations as a result of reduced
annual aquifer recharge. Historical records for the
Roper region TLA and existing areas of interest (AoI)
are sparse. This study used new data to examine the
water resources of the TLA in the Roper River region
and recommends: undertaking further analysis using
these new data; increasing the number of automatic
gauging stations; and expanding site exploratory work
to increase resource reliability for future water planning
and allocations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalWater: Journal of the Australian Water Association
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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