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This report focuses on groundwater system characterisation in the region north of Newman, based on analysis of pre-existing data and data newly acquired during project activities. Groundwater system characterisation was an important research component supporting the assessment of managed aquifer recharge opportunities, using mine dewatering surplus generated (due to mining below the watertable) at large BHP Billiton Iron Ore operations in the eastern Pilbara mining zone, and aiming to support irrigated agriculture. The assessment area is located north of Ethel Gorge and covers the Upper Fortescue River floodplain and surroundings. The project added much knowledge to this largely ‘data-poor’ region, improving our understanding of the local groundwater systems. This was achieved by:

  • interpretation of airborne electromagnetic (AEM) survey data (Davis et al., 2021) and development of a 3D geological model
  • a drilling program, conducted by the DPIRD TAP project and supported by BHP
  • downhole geophysics in several bores (new and pre-existing bores)
  • high frequency groundwater-level observations
  • a water quality and environmental tracer assessment program.

The outcomes of new data acquisition were used to advance a conceptual groundwater model of the study region.

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airborne electromagnetic survey, hydrogeology, geophysics, managed aquifer recharge, Pilbara, groundwater modelling


Agriculture | Geology | Geophysics and Seismology | Hydrology | Sustainability | Water Resource Management


This report provides the outcomes of the groundwater system characterisation within the Fortescue River alluvial fan north from Ethel Gorge (Newman, the eastern Pilbara). This region is one of the regions within the Transforming Agriculture in the Pilbara project (TAP) identified by the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development as a priority area in the Pilbara. TAP is a Western Australian Government initiative aiming to identify a practical and achievable vision for medium- to large-scale irrigated agricultural production in the Pilbara using surplus mine dewater and other in-situ water resources.


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