Chinchilla landholder Brian Bender said the 2019 UWIR draft report had good information - but it was decades too late.
Chinchilla landholder Brian Bender said the 2019 UWIR draft report had good information - but it was decades too late. Brooke Duncan

Farmer speaks out about CSG impact on water aquifers

WHEN CSG workers first arrived at Brian Bender's Chinchilla property, he was told there would be little - if any - impact on his groundwater.

Fast forward to 2019 and Mr Bender's water bores are just a few of hundreds that have been depleted by the resource industry.

In recent years, Mr Bender has had six of his water bores decommissioned, the last in August 2018.

Three were long-term impacted by draw-down, while the other three were affected by free gas which made them unsafe to use.

"The process of getting decommissioned is improving, but they do affect bores," Mr Bender told the Chinchilla News.

"People need to wake up to themselves that this industry is taking a lot of water. It's just unsustainable."

Up to 101 bores in the Chinchilla, Roma and Miles are expected to be affected by CSG activity within the next three years, according to the latest draft Underground Water Impact Report from the Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment.

All will be subject to make-good agreements, where gas companies are obligated to make up for the damage done.

The report outlines in the long-term, an estimated 574 bores will be affected by CSG companies.

As part of the draft UWIR, OGIA hosted a series of community information sessions throughout the Surat Basin.

Contamination, 200 year turnarounds, and the ongoing legacy of Linc Energy were discussed at the Chinchilla meeting.

Good information - but still not enough

THE last impact report was completed in 2016. For OGIA general manager Sanjeev Pandey, the key message is the office has been able to revise predictions on the cumulative impacts of CSG industry.

"New data and information helps us to understand impacts," Mr Pandey said.

According to the report, the Hutton Sandstone and Condamine Alluvium aquifers are now predicted to experience less impacts than in the 2016 models, while the Walloon Coal Measures and Springbok Sandstone will experience even more.

Chinchilla resident and consultant Shay Dougall said the data has never been more complete.

That said, the data was in Mrs Dougall's words "disturbing".

200 years to return to pre-CSG levels

FOR Dulacca landholder and Basin Sustainability Alliance chairman Lee McNicholl one of the biggest issues is unsustainability.

He said the OGIA model predicts it will be at least 200 years before water standing levels returns to what they were before the onset of the gas industry.

"The bottom line is we are taking more than what is being recharged. It will take at least 200 years to correct this," Mr McNicholl said.

"I sound like a cracked record but it's high time we start taking water management a lot more seriously."

Contamination concerns

ONE question that got no clear response surrounded the impacts of contamination of the Linc Energy site.

Ms Dougall said she was told she would need to complete a Right to Information Request to access any information about the potential movement of contamination from the Linc Energy site through draw-down on affected bores.

It's also Mr Bender's biggest concern - especially after the Department of Environment and Science allowed for monitoring bores close to the site.

"There's a water bore in the middle of the Linc site that's been predicted to drop long term by 160m," Mr Bender said.

"It's next-door neighbour has a long-term drop of about 140m, and on the western boundary the neighbour to Linc is 120m.

"So there's three bores within not very far of the Linc Energy site that are predicted by OGIA to drop by more than 120m over the long term."

"Water moving away from that site is potentially dangerous with contamination risks.

"You don't want that water moving any faster than it does naturally."

Should coal mining take be included?

IN ALL past UWIRs there is one industry that's crucially been left out - coal mining.

However, Mr McNicholl said that could change, with the DES now gauging support for including the water take of coal mines in future reports.

"It's insanity that it hasn't been, because the coal industry targets the Walloon Coal Measures," Mr Nicholl said.

"They are another major taker on an unlimited basis."

He said the BSA "enthusiastically supported" the proposition to include the coal industry take in future reports.

Consultation still open

PUBLIC submissions for the draft 2019 UWIR are still open but are set to close on July 8.

More information on how to enter a submission is available at /industries/mining-energy- water/resources/landholders /csg/surat-cma/consultation -draft-uwir.