The cap and pipe the bores scheme has more lives than Lazarus.
It is a popular groundwater-saving initiative which matches Federal, state and landholder funds to cap free-flowing bores and replace open drains with pipes.
Under the official title of the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative (GABSI), and better known as cap and pipe, the first two funding rounds generated a cumulative $115 million of investment into water saving measures between 2000 and 2014.
The scheme was clinically dead for four months until October 2014, when it was revived with a $15.9m Federal heart-starter.
Funding for round three ran out in June last year.
It had upgraded more than 750 bores, decommissioned 21,375 kilometres of open drains which lose water to seepage and evaporation, installed 31,532 km of new pipes and ultimately saved more than 250 gigaltires of water a year.
The scheme addressed a number of environmental and economic concerns. Pressure had been dropping for more than a century in the massive underground water source, natural springs and wetlands were suffering and open bore drains supported increased numbers of feral pests.
The scheme was on ice for six months since last year, but it has been raised yet again, with $8 million from the Federal Agriculture Department.
The fourth round of the scheme is expected to run out in 2019.
GABSI round four
NSW is the first state to allocate projects in GABSI round four.
“From the $8 million fund we’re putting $2.255 million into NSW projects and the state government has agreed to put in another $2.255 million. This is a great result for the community,” said Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.
NSW Minister for Regional Water, Niall Blair said artesian bores and bore drains are the primary source of water and a vital part of the pastoral industry across north west NSW.
“Artesian pressure has dramatically fallen during the last 100 years. Under this Agreement, NSW will be able to work with landholders to rehabilitate high priority artesian bores, which will provide clean, secure and reliable stock and domestic water to six large pastoral leases,” Mr Blair said.
Artesian water resources support 180,000 people and 7600 business enterprises and nearly $13 billion of economic activity each year.
A 2016 report estimated there are nearly 35,000 on-farm bores across the Artesian Basin, which support some 14 million beef cattle generating $4b in annual gross value, and 11 million sheep valued at $600m. Irrigated agriculture, which mostly uses bore water to blend with other fresh sources, is estimated to top $60m.
Mining output dependent on Artesian water exceeds $6b annually, while gas, which sucks groundwater from coal seams to liberate gas trapped underground, grew to $1.7b in 2014-15 and could increase further.
Federal government has signalled its intention to attract public funding to GABSI projects.
“We will work side-by-side with communities and governments in the Basin to encourage further private investment in water efficiency projects,” Mr Littleproud said.
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