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2016 Surat Basin groundwater report takes effect

2016 Surat UWIR
2016 Surat UWIR has taken effect from 19 September 2016

The 2016 Surat Underground Water Impact Report (UWIR) that forecasts potential impacts of coal seam gas (CSG) development on groundwater levels in Queensland's Surat Basin has taken effect.

The 2016 Surat UWIR developed by the Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment (OGIA) and approved by the Chief Executive of the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) took effect on 19 September and replaces the original 2012 UWIR.

The 2016 Surat UWIR had been prepared using a revised regional groundwater flow model incorporating new techniques and the latest knowledge and local groundwater systems research.

A number of technical studies that underpin the 2016 Surat UWIR and the ongoing assessment of groundwater impacts are also being published on the OGIA site.

These studies relate to the nature of groundwater flow systems, hydrogeological and geological investigations, groundwater flow modelling, interconnectivity of aquifers, and springs assessment.

Consultation vital

The release of the final 2016 Surat UWIR follows extensive public consultation and feedback from landholders who attended community information sessions across the Surat Basin earlier this year.

Darling Downs irrigator and GasFields Commissioner, Ian Hayllor said that community consultation was an important step in helping to inform and seek feedback from landholders on this latest report, modelling and research work, and likely forecasts of groundwater impacts.

Mr Hayllor said in its summary of submissions, OGIA has acknowledged that there is benefit in more frequent public meetings to report on work carried out and to obtain feedback from communities.

He welcomed the commitment by OGIA to hold meetings in regional centres on an annual basis to provide updates and obtain feedback.

Groundwater impacts

According to the 2016 Surat UWIR, of the 459 bores predicted to be affected in the long term, 91 bores are expected to experience a lowering of water levels by more than the trigger threshold of five metres within the next three years.

This figure includes 57 newly identified bores and a further 34 bores that were identified in UWIR 2012 and that are currently recorded on the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) groundwater database as remaining in service.

Landholders who own a registered bore in the Surat Cumulative Management Area (CMA), can find out more about predicted water level impacts relevant to their particular bore by entering the bore's registered number (RN) at OGIA's website.

The report also provides a basis for 'make good' arrangements of water bores that are predicted to be affected within next three years.

The Commission has published further information and links for landholders outlining the 'make good' process in Queensland.

Proposed changes to 'make good'

Earlier this month, the Queensland Government tabled new legislation which includes proposed changes to 'make good' provisions under chapter 3 of the Water Act 2000.

The Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 has been referred to the Agriculture and Environment Committee for consideration and reporting back to the Parliament by 25 October 2016.

Some of the proposed changes to the 'make good' provisions include:

  • Gassy bores will be considered under the definition of impaired capacity and will have the ability to trigger make good obligations, regardless of any drop in water levels;
  • Make good obligations will be triggered where the exercise of underground water rights is considered 'likely' to be the cause of impairment, even if there is some scientific uncertainty;
  • Resource companies will be required to pay landholder's cost of engaging a hydrogeologist during the negotiation of a make good agreement.

For more information about the Bill and how to make submissions visit the Queensland Parliament's Agriculture and Environment Committee page.

The closing date for public submissions on the Bill is Friday 7 October 2016.

 

Note: This article should not to be reproduced in whole or in part, without the approval of the GasFields Commission – please contact the Toowoomba office on 07 4542 7800.