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Water in the Red Heart

With its very name suggesting interesting water history, first visit in Alice Springs, the heart of the 'Red Heart', was to the original settlement and the ‘Springs’ themselves. And finding to my amusement that: “William Whitfield Mills came across this waterhole on 11 March 1871 (when the telegraph line was being installed between Darwin and Melbourne) and named it after Mrs Alice Todd” (whose husband was Postmaster General and Superintendent of Telegraphs – Alice never visited the town). “It isn’t really a spring. It’s a depression in the riverbed where water gets trapped on top of some granite.”

Evaporimeter, Alice Springs

Inventory of Hand-boring tools for boring to a depth of 1/200ft, January 1909. Ok so water supply is not that difficult? Even way back? So much a matter of wealth and institutional need? Particularly when the wells were needed to support the telegraph, the internet of its day?

Present Water

“Alice Springs' water supply comes from the Amadeus Basin. The Amadeus basin is large (approximately 170,000 km2) but we don't draw from the entire basin. We access the Mereenie Aquifer System, Pacoota Sandstone and Shannon & Goyder formations, which are much smaller. Additionally these aquifers are relatively narrow and deep, so bores have to be deep and water levels drop relatively fast.” (

Todd River above and older source of drinking water below along with water resources measuring borehole

“Alice Water Smart aims to preserve the life of our finite groundwater resource and secure the long term sustainability of Alice Springs. Our current water supply is drawn from the Roe Creek Bore Field located 15km south of Alice Springs (seen from the road to Yulara). Our water is currently pumped from 150m below surface and is dropping by about 1m a year. Since pumping began at Roe Creek in 1964 over 250,000 ML of groundwater has been extracted, with minimal replenishment. This is half of the Sydney Harbour!”

Finally for this sequence, demonstrating resilience planning, the motor and pump for the borehole, I assume, supported well above normal flood levels:

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