Taking water for make good agreements

One question that has attracted little to no attention in the controversy about make good agreements for the dewatering of groundwater by the coal and gas industry is where will the mining industry will find the water to meet make good agreement requirements?

I recently prepared an EPBC Referral submission on the Galilee Water Pty Ltd. proposal to take water through two initial diversions from the Cape and Campaspe Rivers in the upper reaches of the Burdekin River and store it for water supply to the Galilee Basin. Galilee Water is a dollar company headed by Keith de Lacey the instigator of Cubbie Station which proposes to take up to 214,000ML/year[1]. That is 38 per cent of the volume of Sydney Harbour.



The current government is allowing conventional coal-fired power stations for any Galilee Basin coal mine that wants them and that will add to demand for a long-term water supply. Coal seam gas extraction is also a proposed activity in the Galilee Basin. Groundwater levels are going to drop and there will be a need for many make good agreements. 

This project if approved will have repercussions for downstream users. The Queensland government will need to make changes in the Burdekin Water Resources Plan to allow the taking of such an amount as water allocations would have to be increased well beyond the current allowable amount.


Impacted downstream users would include the Lower Burdekin Water Irrigation Scheme and the city of Townsville which takes water from the Burdekin Dam in times of drought.

Local graziers will be disadvantaged as they will lose the floodwaters that spread across their lands and provide cattle fodder. Thirty-eight per cent of the regional ecosystems in the diversions and storage area are wetlands so biodiversity for wetland flora and fauna including the koala would also be severely impacted.

There has been no strategic research or planning at the scale of the Galilee Basin and the Burdekin River Basin to understand and plan for projects that would compensate for make good agreements on such a large scale and this is well overdue. Pressure needs to be put on the Queensland government to produce reputable plans. This is an urgent matter of public interest and good governance.

Patricia Julien

Research Analyst, Mackay Conservation Group.

[1]There is some confusion to the actual volume of water take for the project in the EPBC referral.

a) is the project starting at a take of 94,000ML/year and ramping up to 120,000ML/year or

b) is the project starting at 94,000ML and they are looking at an additional 120,000ML to arrive

at a total take of 214,000ML/year. This needs further clarification.


"BurdekinRiver1" by Gsolsen - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b3/BurdekinRiver1.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BurdekinRiver1.jpg#mediaviewer/File:BurdekinRiver1.jpg

"Strip coal mining" by Stephen Codrington. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Strip_coal_mining.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Strip_coal_mining.jpg

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  • commented 2015-03-30 20:47:48 +1000
    Dear Patricia, The water required is 120,000 ML/year mean annual diversion of which 94,000ML/y is used to provide high reliability water for the North Galilee and 26,000 ML/y is used for irrigated agriculture adjacent to the diversion point on the river and along the delivery channel. No additional water is required.

    The Project seeks to provide a low impact, high reliability water supply solution for North Galilee coal miners and affected landowners as an alternative to underground water.

    Using Partial Flow Diversion using gravity to off-river, deep storage ponds reduces evaporative losses and means that more water is available for environmental flows compared to taking water from the Burdekin Falls Dam and pumping to the coal mines.

    Many will disagree with any development, but it is a local solution for the region and will create a haven for bird and aquatic life whilst still retaining the natural ecological characteristics of the river.

    Stewart Peters