THE tide has turned in the Gascoyne region of WA, or at least the flow is about to slow. After almost 100 years of unfettered flow, many of the area's 40 viable artesian bores are now being repaired, or capped, as part of a $4.8 million rehabilitation program. The aim is to stop the estimated 15m cubic metres of groundwater lost to evaporation and seepage every year, through the current open drain system. In their place will be new water efficient bores, which will service the stations through a series of pipes, tanks and troughs, and will afford pastoralists better control of their most valuable resource. The bore rehabilitation project is a partnership between pastoralists and government, funded on the basis of 40 per cent Commonwealth funds, 40 per cent from the State Government, and 20pc from the lease holder. Water Resources Minister Kim Hames officially launched the project last week, regulating the flow at one of the new first water efficient bores on Wahroonga station. "With 11 of the 18 landholders already signed up to undertake rehabilitation works on 38 artesian bores, this project will very quickly provide tremendous environmental and economic benefit," he said. "For pastoralists, it means they are getting a new bore for $20,000 or $30,000," he said. While most pastoralists recognise the worth of the project, there are some reservations, largely stemming from a fear of possible water regulation and restrictions in the future. Carnarvon Artesian Basin Advisory Group chairman Ken Baston, Ella Valla station, said the Government's 80pc financial support for the program meant that they were likely to want some regulation over the water supply. But Mr Baston said he was confident that the issues could be worked out with pastoralists and the Water and Rivers Commission. "I think the main requirement under the agreement is that the water doesn't go to waste and, with the new bores and reticulation systems, that is not going to happen," he said. Dr Hames said, with the quantities of water being saved, the pressure on the artesian water supplies would be drastically eased, as would the need to restrict water useage in the foreseeable future. Some level of concern also exists on meeting the two-year timeframe to get the bore completed and allow landholders the 80pc cost compensation.