National Water Commission’s position on coal seam gas

Rivers SOS is pleased to see that the Australian Government’s National Water Commission supports the precautionary principle in regards to coal seam gas.

To meet NWI objectives, the Commission recommends that industry, water and land-use planners, and governments adopt a precautionary approach to CSG developments, ensuring that risks to the water resource are carefully and effectively managed.

Their full position can be viewed here.

The Commission identifies a number of risks posed by coal seam gas:

  • Extracting large volumes of low-quality water will impact on connected surface and groundwater systems, some of which may already be fully or overallocated, including the Great Artesian Basin and Murray-Darling Basin.
  • Impacts on other water users and the environment may occur due to the dramatic depressurisation of the coal seam, including:
    – changes in pressures of adjacent aquifers with consequential changes in water availability
    – reductions in surface water flows in connected systems
    – land subsidence over large areas, affecting surface water systems, ecosystems, irrigation and grazing lands.
  • The production of large volumes of treated waste water, if released to surface water systems, could alter natural flow patterns and have significant impacts on water quality, and river and wetland health. There is an associated risk that, if the water is overly treated, ‘clean water’ pollution of naturally turbid systems may occur.
  • The practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fraccing, to increase gas output, has the potential to induce connection and cross-contamination between aquifers, with impacts on groundwater quality.
  • The reinjection of treated waste water into other aquifers has the potential to change the beneficial use characteristics of those aquifers.

If the Government takes the advice of its own Commission, we should see greater restrictions on coal seam gas exploration in light of these risks.

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