Australia is a land of extremes subject to an adverse and unreliable climate. The original inhabitants lived mainly in coastal zones without permanent settlements. European settlers, who arrived from 1788, founded towns from which they penetrated into the drier interior following rivers or sinking wells. There was pressure for Government to provide guidance in obtaining water supplies. The various States began to establish Geological Surveys in the 1850s and, although their prime objective was to advise on minerals they also advised on groundwater. Artesian water was discovered in 1878 and the boundaries of the Great Artesian Basin were established by around 1900. Declining yields and the long-term reliability of supply resulted in numerous conferences and committees. Following World War II geologists were appointed by organizations outside the Geological Survey. From the mid-1960s to 1980 intensive groundwater exploration took place and hydrogeology became accepted as a discipline in its own right.