Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Impacts of Coal Seam Gas Activities on Water Inflows in South East Queensland

Media release
10 December 2010

Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has today released an independent expert report into recently approved coal seam gas operations in South East Queensland.

The report - Assessment of impacts of the proposed coal seam gas operations on surface and groundwater systems in the Murray Darling Basin - was commissioned to fulfil the requirements of s.255AA of the Water Act. Such a study was required to be undertaken prior to the issuance of mining licences by the State.

The study determines the impacts of the operations on the connectivity of groundwater systems, surface water and groundwater flows and water quality.

"While there were significant economic benefits to these projects, which must be a consideration in my decision, my focus was on protecting environmental matters such as protected species and ecological communities," said Mr Burke.

"I imposed strict conditions on each of the coal seam gas projects to help protect groundwater and surface water systems, these conditions will help to manage the issues raised in this report.

"The report confirms the importance of an adaptive management regime supported by monitoring and management of groundwater systems.

"The study notes, consistent with earlier advice I received from Geoscience Australia, that although large volumes of water will be extracted in some project areas from the Great Artesian Basin due to coal seam gas activities, the changes to regional groundwater balances in the main alluvial systems of this part of the Murray Darling Basin may be relatively minor.

"Maintaining groundwater pressure in the Condamine Alluvium, including by re-injection where necessary, is important. The report states this would alleviate potential loss of water and may result in the return of higher groundwater levels to the Condamine Alluvium.

"The conclusions and the risks identified in the study are consistent with the information used to inform the conditions that I imposed on coal seam gas projects in October.

"The study states that transparency of information is important to assist the community, government and industry to benefit from the full range of resources in the region. This was something I also considered in my approval conditions.

"I have required the coal seam gas companies to make public their detailed plans for water management and monitoring.

"The results of this study will provide important information for the Great Artesian Basin Water Resource Assessment project led by the CSIRO.

"My department has provided the report to the Queensland authorities and they are considering it."

The study was conducted by Professor Chris Moran, Director of the Centre for Water in the Minerals Industry, part of the University of Queensland's Sustainable Minerals Institute.

"I am also appointing an expert panel to advise me in regard to coal seam gas water management.

"In particular, this expert panel will help set drawdown limits for targeted aquifers, and thresholds for which management actions should be initiated, such as the repressurisation of aquifers, including by reinjection, in the event that thresholds are exceeded."