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Earth Systems and Environment

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 345–365 | Cite as

Groundwater Resource Assessment and Conceptualization in the Pilbara Region, Western Australia

  • Rodrigo RojasEmail author
  • Philip Commander
  • Don McFarlane
  • Riasat Ali
  • Warrick Dawes
  • Olga Barron
  • Geoff Hodgson
  • Steve Charles
Original Article
  • 421 Downloads

Abstract

The Pilbara region is one of the most important mining hubs in Australia. It is also a region characterised by an extreme climate, featuring environmental assets of national significance, and considered a valued land by indigenous people. Given the arid conditions, surface water is scarce, shows large variability, and is an unreliable source of water for drinking and industrial/mining purposes. In such conditions, groundwater has become a strategic resource in the Pilbara region. To date, however, an integrated regional characterization and conceptualization of the occurrence of groundwater resources in this region were missing. This article addresses this gap by integrating disperse knowledge, collating available data on aquifer properties, by reviewing groundwater systems (aquifer types) present in the region and identifying their potential, and proposing conceptualizations for the occurrence and functioning of the groundwater systems identified. Results show that aquifers across the Pilbara Region vary substantially and can be classified in seven main types: coastal alluvial systems, concealed channel iron deposits, inland valley-fill aquifers, karstified dolomites, sandstone aquifers (West Canning Basin), Permian/Cenozoic Paleochannels, and Fractured Rock aquifers. Coastal alluvial systems show the greatest regional potential as water sources and are currently intensively utilised. Conceptually, the main recharge processes are infiltration of precipitation associated with cyclonic events and the interaction with streamflows during summer season, whereas the main discharge mechanisms correspond to evapotranspiration from riverine and coastal vegetation, discharge into the Indian Ocean, and dewatering of iron-ore bodies to facilitate mining activities. Important gaps in the knowledge relate to aquifer connectivity and accurate quantification of recharge/discharge mechanisms.

Keywords

Pilbara Regional review Paleovalley aquifers Channel iron deposit (CID) aquifers 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This paper reports results of a broader project led by CSIRO for the West Australian Government and industry partners—BHP Billiton, West Australian Department of Water, Water Corporation, Pilbara Development Commission, and the Department of Regional Development. We acknowledge resources, data, and guidance provided by these partners. We also thank Richard Silberstein, Greg Claydon, Blair Douglas, Warwick McDonald, Gary Humphreys, Paul Vanderwal, Gus Tampalini, Seth Johnson, Gary Clark, Dan Huxtable, Cuan Peterham, Patrick Seares, Hamid Mohsenzedah, Glen Walker, Keith Anthonisz, Kevin Lee, Paul Trotman, and Richard Bairstow for valuable comments throughout the development of this project.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CSIRO Land and Water, EcoSciences PrecinctBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.DP Commander HydrogeologyPerthAustralia
  3. 3.CSIRO Land and WaterPerthAustralia
  4. 4.School of Agriculture and EnvironmentUniversity of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia
  5. 5.PerthAustralia

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