The APY Lands Water Search project focused on the search for water in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands and at Yalata.

In 2015 the department was engaged by SA Water to address the critical water needs of seven Aboriginal communities (Amata, Kaltjiti, Indulkana, Mimili, Pukatja and Yunyarinyi) in the APY Lands and also at Yalata through a groundwater exploration and drilling program.

Water supply in the arid APY Lands of South Australia has long been a concern. In over 60 years of water exploration finding a large sustainable sedimentary alluvial aquifer within the APY Lands has not occurred. The scarcity of alluvial groundwater sources and shortfalls of previous drilling campaigns led the department’s project team to target fractured basement groundwater with the aim of accessing more sustainable supply than has been located previously.

Simultaneously with this, the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) secured funding through the Australian government and the South Australian state government to upgrade 210km of main access road between the Stuart Highway and Pukatja (Ernabella), known as the APY Lands Main Access Road Upgrade project. For this project’s success, access to water at regular intervals was critical for dust suppression and the department were contracted to provide the management of the associated groundwater drilling program to deliver this water.

This combined program of work involved approximately 240 days on the ground in the second half of 2015 and required numerous departmental staff with specialist skills in well drilling and construction, pump testing and downhole geophysics.

Find out the challenges we faced in targeting potable groundwater in the APY Lands in the video below.

Challenges targeting potable groundwater in the APY Lands

Project outcomes

  • 13 community wells have been completed at Amata, Pukatja, Kaltjiti, Mimili, Indulkana and Yalata.
  • Significant new water sources have been identified at Amata, Pukatja and Kaltjiti.
  • Three wells were completed for the Main Access Road Upgrade at three out of six locations.
  • The APY Lands Water Search project has promoted positive relationships between government and Aboriginal communities, and shared knowledge and expertise across agencies.

Next steps

  • Develop a strategy to address long term sustainable water supply for future generations and to link the new works with the current infrastructure network.

This work was conducted entirely within the Natural Resources Alinytjara Wilurara region. Find out more information regarding the water resources of this region.