The NSW Office of Water is recovering water in the NSW Great Artesian Basin by capping and piping free-flowing artesian bores. The Cap and Pipe the Bores program has given landholders in the Great Artesian Basin financial incentives to cap and pipe their bores. This increases artesian pressure, while establishing reliable and efficient supplies of good quality water to properties across north west NSW.

The Great Artesian Basin is one of the largest underground freshwater resources in the world. It lies below 12 per cent of New South Wales supporting a population of over 200,000. There are 1,400 bores tapping the Great Artesian Basin. Natural pressure across the basin has significantly declined due to overuse. Nearly half the bores have stopped flowing, reducing landholder access to water.

Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative

The Cap and Pipe the Bores program is part of the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative (GABSI), jointly funded by the Australian and NSW governments. GABSI phase 1 was implemented between 1999 and 2004 with $25 million funding. Phase 2 built on this with $32 million funding from July 2004 until June 2009. The NSW Office of Water has targeted the remaining free flowing bores through the Cap and Pipe the Bores program under GABSI phase 3, which runs until June 2014.


In the past, up to 95 per cent of artesian water was being wasted through evaporation and seepage. Today, the Cap and Pipe the Bores program has improved water supply through the following achievements:

  • saving 78,500 ML of water every year
  • supplied approximately 4.2 million ha with permanent, reliable, efficient and strategically located watering points
  • controlled 398 free flowing bores
  • removed over 10,000 km of bore drains
  • installed 18,000 km of piping
  • improved water use efficiency and reduced water wastage
  • improved water quality for stock and domestic use
  • increasing artesian pressure, increasing access to water
  • reducing salt discharge by 62,800 tonnes every year
  • reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 41,600 tonnes every year
  • assisted land managers to achieve more sustainable property and stock management.

Increases in artesian bore pressure are being observed in many areas as a result of capping and piping. The program is achieving many other landscape benefits such as improving biodiversity conservation and feral animal control.

Great Artesian Basin zones map 2013

Benefits for landholders

A reliable water supply significantly reduces the impact of drought. The Cap and Pipe the Bores program has succeeded in assisting landholders with:

  • clean water for better stock production
  • more reliable water supply on properties
  • strategically located watering points in the landscape
  • more efficient property management
  • investing in infrastructure to conserve water for future generations.

Cap & Pipe the Bores grants

Applications for Cap and Pipe the Bores grants in New South Wales have now closed.

The future of the Cap & Pipe the Bores program

At this stage, there is no further funding available for the Cap & Pipe the Bores Program.

The Commonwealth government is currently undertaking several reviews assessing the benefit of further financial investment in the rehabilitation of the GAB. The outcome of these reviews is expected to be known in early 2014.

If you have flowing artesian bores and would like to cap and pipe, contact the Inverell office on 02 6721 9810.