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. 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.
Research Analyst, Mackay Conservation Group.
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