AgForce has welcomed updated scientific information about the effects of coal seam gas (CSG) production on underground water in the Surat Cumulative Management Area (CMA) as an important tool in helping protect the natural environment and preserve Queensland’s sustainable agriculture industry.
The report, released by the independent Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment (OGIA), assists landholders to understand likely impacts on their water bores from current and planned CSG activity, with a 17 percent increase in the CSG production area since 2016.
AgForce Water Committee Chair Kim Bremner said that underground water, including from the Great Artesian Basin, was a vital resource for rural communities, farmers and other industries that needs to be carefully managed to secure its environmental, social and economic values.
“The report highlights the critical role independent scientific evidence has in supporting decisions on resource projects, and in this case, the potential impacts on important agricultural water assets.
“Permanent impacts on groundwater resources should be avoided, and only if they are unavoidable but acceptable to a well-informed society should groundwater impacts be allowed.
“In all cases, an agreement between a resource holder and water bore owner should be put in place proactively to ensure the resource tenure holder ‘makes good’ on any impacts to the bore.”
The OGIA report indicates the number of bores to be impacted by CSG activities totals 574, up approximately 10 percent since 2016.
Of these, 101 new bores will suffer impacts that trigger ‘make good’ arrangements within the next three years – a significant challenge for those affected bore owners.
“AgForce has successfully advocated for landholders in negotiation with resource companies to be advised by expert hydrogeologists and agronomists at the CSG companies’ cost,” Mr Bremner said.
“The problem, however, is that we know from the 2016 report there are still 30 outstanding ‘make good’ agreements yet to be concluded out of the 123 identified bores.
“This shortfall in finalised agreements indicates further improvements are required so that the ‘make good’ system is timely, effective and fair.
“The report also predicts greater groundwater declines in the Walloon Coal Measures and the Springbok Sandstone than previously estimated, and recent falls of around 1.5 to 2 metres per year in the Hutton aquifer are also concerning.
“We need to ensure that groundwater management delivers security, reliability and quality of water supplies to primary producers and other users.
“Landholders should be able have confidence that their interests will be protected today and into the future.
“The best way to deliver that confidence is for independent scientific information and recommendations to be used, rigorous conditions applied, and for a robust monitoring and compliance program to be in place prior to works commencing.”
Public consultation of the draft report is due to take place in the coming weeks, and AgForce will provide feedback on the consultation draft report to ensure the best interests of landholders are promoted.