Murchison palaeochannels groundwater investigation

The Murchison palaeochannels groundwater investigation, funded through Royalties for Regions Regional Water Availability program, has pieced together the information we need as a first step to understand these hidden water resources.
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Groundwater resources in alluvial sands that fill ancient palaeochannels are some of the few reliable water sources in the state’s arid zones, such as the east Murchison. Tapping into these resources could help mining companies, pastoralists and towns such as Meekatharra, Cue and Mt Magnet to thrive and grow.

What we did during the investigation

During the Murchison palaeochannels investigation we:

  • flew a specially designed airborne electromagnetic (AEM) survey over approximately 52,000 square kilometres of palaeochannels, adding to geological and groundwater quality information sourced from more than 2,000 existing boreholes across the project area
  • worked with expert geophysicists from CSIRO to use data processing techniques specifically designed for this project to transform the AEM results into three-dimensional images and maps of the palaeochannels (which are the most detailed ever created for this area).

Key findings and how we are using the information

The mapping of the palaeochannels has simplified potential access to this ancient groundwater for productive and sustainable use by indicating where the palaeochannels are, the depth to groundwater and the quality of the groundwater stored in the riverbed sands.

The maps show potential for groundwater based on geophysics data and existing borehole data and are a guide for industry to target more detailed investigations.

Where to get more details

You can ask for a summary of the Murchison AEM survey, and a detailed CSIRO report describing how the AEM data was used to map the palaeochannels, by emailing

You can access all government-commissioned airborne geophysical surveys via the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety website and download them free of charge from ‘Geophysical Surveys’ in GeoVIEW.WA or from the Geophysical Archive Data Delivery System (GADDS).

Read more about our groundwater investigations by region across Western Australia.