Fact-finding in Australia’s Great Artesian Basin

The Australian Water Partnership recently supported two hydrogeologists from Myanmar’s Irrigation and Water Utilization Management Department (IWUMD) to undergo a two-week training course on groundwater modelling followed by a fact-finding mission to the Great Artesian Basin to learn about successful artesian aquifer remediation works.

Run by NPM Technical Pty Ltd (trading as HydroSimulations), in association with Aqua Rock Konsultants (ARK), the course taught the concepts and application of computer groundwater modelling, including groundwater model theory and practical tutorials, and covered the conceptualisation and development of a modelling plan for the Pale Sub-basin in Central Myanmar using MODFLOW software.

The Pale Sub-basin is one of several important artesian areas within Myanmar’s ‘Central Dry Zone’. Currently, artesian flows within the Pale Sub-basin are uncontrolled and large volumes of precious water are being wasted. The recent ‘State of the Basin Assessment’ (SOBA) identified groundwater control as a key issue to be addressed in the Ayeyarwady Basin, while the AWP report ‘Hydrology of the Dry Zone, Central Myanmar’ identified an absence of groundwater modelling expertise in the region.

Partner at Aqua Rock Konsultants Dr Len Drury said that following the training, the IWUMD representatives were equipped with a multitude of beneficial new skills.

“Participants now have the skills to simulate local and regional aquifer systems under various groundwater operational scenarios,” said Dr Drury.

“They can predict aquifer recharge and discharge; local effects of groundwater extraction; fate of pollutants; water quality changes in rural, urban and hypothetical scenarios, and impacts of climate change.”

Accompanied by Dr Drury and Megan Hancock-Lane, Senior Hydrogeologist, South Australia Department of Environment and Water, the hydrogeologists also visited the Great Artesian Basin to explore successful aquifer remediation works in Australia, including remediated sites for cattle properties and industrial users, uncontrolled flowing bores and natural artesian springs.

U Than Zin (IWUMD), Megan Hancock-Lane (DEW) and U Than Zaw (IWUMD) at BHP Olympic Dam Mine observation piezometer (25 June 2019)
U Than Zin (IWUMD), Megan Hancock-Lane (DEW) and U Than Zaw (IWUMD) at BHP Olympic Dam Mine observation piezometer (25 June 2019)

The technical issues associated with artesian borehole remediation and the community and basin-wide advantages of such works were explained and, through this visit, they gained an understanding of how to remediate groundwater flows from uncontrolled artesian bores, form strategies and make policies in relation to artesian aquifers in Myanmar.

The training and subsequent fact-finding tour helped to equip representatives from IWUMD with the tools to participate in the Artesian Aquifer Management Pilot Study of the Pale Sub-basin, which is due to commence in late 2019 or early 2020.

Feature photo: U Than Zaw (IWUMD), Dr Len Drury (ARK), U Thant Zin (IWUMD) at the Wabna Kadadbu Moung Springs Conservation Park, ‘The Bubbler’. Spring flow from the Great Artesian Basin, South Australia (25 June 2019)
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