On 4 October 2020 it was announced that the moratorium on drilling new domestic bores in Adelaide was lifted. The decision will allow new domestic bores to be drilled in the central region of the Central Adelaide Prescribed Wells Area (CAPWA) – extending from Outer Harbor to Marino and bordering the Western Mount Lofty Ranges, from Houghton to Cherry Gardens.
Anyone wishing to drill a new domestic well will need to apply for a well construction permit and should read the frequently asked questions listed below.
The State Government may introduce new controls in the future if trends indicate that these groundwater resources are adversely affected or shows signs of potential impact decline in groundwater.
- Why is the Adelaide Groundwater Moratorium on new domestic wells being lifted?
- Is there groundwater contamination where I live and therefore I shouldn’t use bore water?
- The EPA prohibited the taking of groundwater in my area; does lifting the moratorium mean it’s now safe to do so?
- The water quality testing from my new well indicated that there is groundwater contamination, what do I do?
- I want to drill a new bore to water my garden and other non-drinking water purposes, how do I go about this?
- What are the water quality testing requirements for new stock and domestic bores in Central Adelaide Prescribed Wells Area?
- My property is located within the Central Adelaide Prescribed Wells Area, can I drill a bore for new commercial/industrial or irrigation purposes?
- I don’t want to pay an application fee to just get it refused due to site contamination. How can I avoid this? Can I get a refund?
- How long will it take for my application to be assessed and how long does my permit last for?
- My application to drill a new domestic well in the Central Adelaide PWA was successful! Now what?
- I already know the groundwater is safe where I live, do I still need to get the water tested as mandated by the permit?
- How do I arrange for the water from my well to be tested to make sure it’s safe?
- I was given a permit to drill a well by DEW, but now the EPA is advising against using the groundwater, am I able to get compensation?
The Adelaide Groundwater Moratorium was issued in response to drought conditions, following a significant increase in applications for new domestic wells in the Adelaide area. There was concern at the time that the increased access to groundwater may detrimentally affect water levels and consequently salinity levels, in the shallow Quaternary aquifers.
Since the moratorium was imposed there has been ongoing monitoring of the groundwater resource, which has shown that shallow groundwater levels in the region have recovered in above-average rainfall years since the drought.
Therefore, lifting the moratorium on drilling new domestic bores presents minimal risk to the groundwater levels at this time. The shallow aquifers of the Adelaide metropolitan area will continue to be monitored and trends assessed by DEW.
Bore owners should contact the EPA’s Site Contamination Branch to find out more about potential groundwater contamination before using groundwater. Additionally, information is available on a number of EPA websites and on the EPA Public Register that can give you an initial idea of whether you would be at potential risk, if you used groundwater from the shallow aquifers in your area:
In some instances suspected site contamination investigations are not yet finalised and therefore it is best to contact the EPA on 08 8204 2004 to discuss the potential groundwater contamination risk in your local area.
Where there is no specific ban in place through a Groundwater Prohibition Area being declared, the groundwater user accepts all risks and responsibility when they choose to use groundwater from their bore.
No. The Groundwater Prohibition Areas and the direction to not use groundwater for any purposes within these areas is still in effect.
If your property is located within a Groundwater Prohibition Area or in an area otherwise known or suspected as having contaminated groundwater (e.g. in an EPA Assessment Area), it is still considered unsafe to use groundwater for domestic purposes. For this reason, any applications for a Well Construction Permit will be refused in these areas in the interest of public health and safety.
While Well Construction Permits may be granted within the rest of the Adelaide metropolitan area, it will be a condition of your permit to arrange and pay for a water sample to be collected and tested, prior to use. Contact details for the laboratories can be found on the SA Health website on the topic of drinking water quality testing laboratories.
Fitness for purpose will be determined by the landowner based on appropriate Australian and International water quality guidelines and advice from SA Health. For assistance to interpret these results from a public health perspective, help can be provided by the Water Quality Unit of SA Health on (08) 8226 7100 or via email email@example.com.
Anyone considering drilling a well in the Adelaide area should consider the latest information about Groundwater Prohibition Areas and EPA Assessment Areas that can be found on the EPA’s website.
Bore owners should also see the information provided by SA Health’s Water Quality Unit about the risks of using bore water for domestic purposes and guidance on testing the water quality.
If the results indicate that there is site contamination, it is important that you immediately discontinue use. Preventing extraction of contaminated groundwater is necessary to protect human health and also to prevent the spread of contamination. This can be caused by drawing water towards a property if the groundwater is being extracted from a bore.
Please do not use it for any purpose. If you have not already discussed your groundwater sampling results with the EPA, you will also need to notify the EPA on (08) 8204 2004 or email EPASiteContam@sa.gov.au.
As the owner or occupier of the site or residential property, you must notify the EPA in writing as soon as reasonably practicable after becoming aware of the existence of contamination. This is a legal requirement under the Environment Protection Act 1993.
The EPA is required to place this notification in the EPA Public Register and will result in a flag on the property’s certification of title. The liable party found to be responsible for the contamination (or the EPA) also advises the affected community if a risk to public health is confirmed.
If you’re located within the Central Adelaide Prescribed Wells Area and wish to access water for stock or domestic purposes (watering an area no greater than 0.4 ha) you do not need a water licence to take groundwater, only a Well Construction Permit.
A well construction permit gives you the approval to drill a well into the ground, subject to the conditions on the permit. For more information about well construction permits please see Drilling wells. A water licence (or water account) gives you approval to take water from a prescribed water resource for any purpose other than a stock or domestic purpose.
Go to the well permit application form on the Statewide Forms DEW page. There you will find the Well Construction Permit form and more information for you to consider before proceeding. Currently the application fee is $95.50.
Please note that SA Health advises that water from shallow aquifers in the metropolitan area of Adelaide is not generally recommended as a suitable source of drinking water. Groundwater may be deemed safe for drinking, cooking, filling swimming pools or watering edible plants only after it has been fully tested by a specialist laboratory.
Depending on where you want to drill the well and into which aquifer, there may be groundwater contamination that has been identified and recorded by the EPA (e.g. located in a Groundwater Prohibition Area or EPA Assessment Area). In this instance your application would be refused in the interest of public health and safety, even if you’re not intending to use it for drinking water purposes.
While Well Construction Permits may be granted in other areas within the Central Adelaide Region, it will be a condition of your permit to arrange and pay for a water sample to be collected and tested by an accredited laboratory, prior to using the water, to ensure the water is safe and fit for purpose. Fitness for purpose will be determined by the landowner based on appropriate Australian and international water quality guidelines and advice from the SA Health. For assistance to interpret these results from a public health perspective, help can be provided by the Water Quality Unit of SA Health on (08) 8226 7100 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Importantly, if your bore water is found to be contaminated this will result in a section 83A notification under the Environment Protection Act 1993. This information is held on the EPA public register and will result in a flag on the property’s certification of title. This also means you will not be allowed to use the water from your new bore.
Anyone considering drilling a well in the Adelaide area should consider the latest information about Groundwater Prohibition Areas and EPA Assessment Areas that can be found on the EPA’s website, which will indicate whether it is safe to use groundwater at your location.
As mandated on new permits for stock and domestic bores within Central Adelaide Prescribed Wells Area, the water quality must be tested for potential microbiological and chemical contaminants, prior to use to ensure that it is fit for purpose.
It is strongly recommended that testing occur at least every 2 years. If at any stage there are changes in appearance or odour, further water quality testing is advised.
It is the well owner's/permit holder's responsibility to investigate the costs associated with water testing, when assessing costs keep in mind that it is strongly recommended that testing is repeated every 2 years.
The cost of having your water sampled and tested by a NATA-accredited laboratory (which is a mandated condition of a well permit where the water is to be used for domestic purposes) can be quite high, approximately $600, at a minimum. It’s strongly recommended that before drilling a well that you contact a suitably qualified laboratory to determine the costs associated with having a water sample collected and analysed. Based on current knowledge, there are two laboratories in South Australia that undertake both sampling and testing, in accordance with the water quality testing condition on new well permits for this area. These are:
Testing must include:
- E. coli (as an indicator of faecal contamination)
- Total dissolved solids (where not already known)
If you have been advised in your well permit cover letter, you may be required to have additional targeted testing for contaminants that are known to be near your location, such as:
- full suite of volatile organic compounds,
- Trichloroethylene (TCE), and/or
- contaminants such as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
If you have any questions about this please contact the Site Contamination Branch of the EPA on 8204 9934.
As the well owner (permit holder), it is your responsibility to determine whether the water is ‘fit’ for your intended use. The Australian and International guidelines listed below will help you make this assessment. SA Health are also able to assist with the interpretation of test results from a public health perspective. The SA Health Water Quality Unit can be contacted via(08) 8226 7100 or email email@example.com.
Australian and International guidelines:
If the results indicate that the water is safe to use, if ‘fit for purpose’ then you can start using the water.
Please note water quality test results must be submitted to the following email address EPASiteContam@sa.gov.au. The provision of test results to the EPA is a condition on the well permit,adherence with this condition will be monitored by DEW and suitable compliance action taken where necessary. This includes, but is not limited to, expiation in accordance with Section 104 (7) the Landscape South Australia Act 2019 (current expiation fee – $1000).
No. A water licence is required to use water for any purpose other than for household domestic use or the watering of stock. Find out more about the Central Adelaide Prescribed Wells Area.
Water licences will not be issued with new wells until such time as a water allocation plan is in place. A draft plan is currently under development. Find out more about this process.
Before making an application for a Well Construction Permit, it is recommended that you check if the bore would be located in an area of site contamination. If it is, any applications will be refused. Examples of such areas include Groundwater Prohibition Areas and EPA Assessment Areas, which are displayed on the EPA’s website.
If you wish to avoid unnecessary payment of the application fee, refer to these websites or you may alternatively check whether your application is likely to be refused due to site contamination, by contacting the department’s Mount Gambier office on (08) 8735 1134.
The fee ($95.50) is payable for all well permit applications submitted to enable the necessary administrative purposes once the form is lodged; therefore, this is non-refundable.
The assessment process can be quite technical, depending on your location and proposed use. The standard assessment timeframe is 15 days, unless referral of the application is required. If a permit is requested for the construction of a well on Crown Land where Native Title may exist, processing may take more than 60 days.
A permit to construct (drill) a well expires after 12 months (i.e. the well must be drilled within that 12 months). After this time a new application will need to be submitted and paid for.
Choose a licenced driller and adhere to the conditions of your permit, while also having regard or the notes and advice in the communications material sent to you.
Of particular note is the condition on your permit requiring you to arrange and pay for a water sample to be collected and tested by an accredited laboratory, prior to using the water, to ensure the water is safe and fit for purpose.
Yes. The bore owner must undertake all testing as mandated by their permit.
Aquifers may contain chemicals and micro-organisms that are potentially harmful. Some of these chemicals are naturally occurring (such as those present in soils and rocks) while others are a result of contamination. Water quality can be quite different from bore to bore, even if they are located in close proximity. For this reason, testing from a newly drilled well is required prior to use.
As advised by SA Health’s website about bore water, it is not always possible to tell if bore water is contaminated. Bore water quality may change over time. Therefore, after the initial analysis the bore water should be checked every 2 years and monitored by the owner for any undesirable changes in water quality. Where groundwater contamination becomes known in a nearby area, shallow groundwater may need to be tested more frequently. Find out more.
Changes in appearance or odour can, but not always, indicate contamination. If this occurs, owners are advised to check the integrity of the bore and to test water quality. Some chemicals, such as solvents, can be odourless and colourless in groundwater.
Regularly have the water tested to ensure the health of those using the water and be aware that should contamination be discovered in your area, depending on which aquifer your well is accessing, you may be advised to stop using groundwater (EPA Assessment Area phase) or be legally prohibited from doing so (if a Groundwater Prohibition Area is declared).
The responsibility rests with the land/bore owner to have their water sampled and tested by an accredited laboratory service to ensure it is fit for purpose. This should be repeated on a regular basis; every two years is the recommended frequency. For further information please see testing requirements for private bores on the SA Health website.
All testing of the water samples from a private and commercial or community-based bore should be conducted by trained personnel and the analysis done by a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited analytical laboratory. Find out about the laboratories that provide these services.
No. Compensation is not provided to landholders where the EPA determines that groundwater is unsuitable for use after permits are issued. The bore owner accepts all risks and responsibility associated with obtaining a permit and drilling the bore.
New domestic well owners should be aware that like all industrialised cities, Adelaide has groundwater contamination as a direct result of past practices of manufacturing, industry, agriculture and burial of waste products. Investigations are ongoing and new sites of contamination are progressively being discovered.
A permit to drill a well is valid for 12 months and is based on the knowledge available to the Minister’s delegate at that point in time. Unfortunately, if site contamination is discovered at a later date and the bore water is unable to be used due to site contamination that presents a potential harm to human health, this is at the risk of the bore owner.
If the water tests indicate that there is contamination then the well cannot be used for any purpose and the EPA must be notified in writing as soon as practicable – EpaSiteContam@sa.gov.au.