In Northern Australia there are three major subterranean water systems, in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. These ancient aquifers supply water for towns across the country, supporting not only the lives of people and their livestock, but also industries and the biodiversity of the landscape.1

The viability of these aquifers depend on how they are recharged, with some evidence indicating significant recharges for some aquifers is based on a timescale of millenia.

View of Lake Armadeus from Mount Connor (on the Lasseter Highway)
View of Lake Armadeus from Mount Connor (on the Lasseter Highway)

The Amadeus Basin is approximately 170,000 sq km. It is located in the southern half of the Northern Territory.

The catchment area of the Amadeus Basin covers some 90,000 sq km, from the south, the Petermann and Musgrave Ranges, and from the north, the George Gill Range and the Cleland Hills. Whilst water from these ranges flow down, it soaks into the sandy soil and evaporate before reaching any lakes, hence there is very little to no accumulation of water.

Alice Springs in the heart of Australia, draws its water supply from the Amadeus Basin. The water it draws come from the Mereenie Aquifer System, Pacoota Sandstone and Shannon and Goyder formations, all part of the Amadeus Basin. These aquifers are relatively narrow and deep, requiring bores to be dung deep, also resulting in water levels dropping quite fast.2

View of Lake Armadeus from Mount Connor (on the Lasseter Highway)
View of Lake Armadeus from Mount Connor (on the Lasseter Highway)

Because the aquifers are not recharged, or have very little recharge occurring, and with the high evaporation rate, the result is that all the water drawn to supply the inhabitants of the area is palaeo-water, water that accumulated under much wetter climatic conditions.3

View of Lake Armadeus from Mount Connor (on the Lasseter Highway)
View of Lake Armadeus from Mount Connor (on the Lasseter Highway)

Footnote & References

  1. The Management and Use of Ancient Water in Northern Australia, Future Directions International, John Macfarlane, 5 October 2017, https://www.futuredirections.org.au/publication/use-management-ancient-water-northern-australia/ [accessed 25 November 2020]
  2. Alice Springs Water Supply, Alice Water Smart, http://www.alicewatersmart.com.au/why-save-water/alice-springs-water-supply [accessed 25 November 2020]
  3. Australia: The Land Where Time Began, M. H. Monroe, https://austhrutime.com/amadeus_basin.htm [accessed 25 November 2020]
  4. Amadeus Basin, Geoscience Australia, https://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/energy/province-sedimentary-basin-geology/petroleum/onshore-australia/amadeus-basin [accessed 25 November 2020]
  5. Wikipedia contributors, ‘Amadeus Basin’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 15 March 2020, 19:26 UTC, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Amadeus_Basin&oldid=945723834 [accessed 25 November 2020]