The Great Artesian Basin (GAB) in Australia is one of the largest subterranean aquifer systems in the world. In this article we venture into the subterranean “resource environment”’ of the Great Artesian Basin and ask whether new insights can be provided by social analyses of the “vertical third dimension” in contemporary contests over water and coal seam gas. Our analysis makes use of a large number of publicly available submissions made to recent state and federal government inquiries, augmented with data obtained through ethnographic fieldwork among landholders in the coal seam gas fields of southern Queensland. We examine the contemporary contest in terms of ontological politics, and regard the underground as a challenging “socionature hybrid” in which the material characteristics, uses, and affordances of water and coal seam gas resources in the Great Artesian Basin are entangled with broader social histories, technologies, knowledge debates, and discursive contests.
Society and Natural Resources / Vol. 29, No. 6, pp.696-710