The independent Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment (OGIA) is planning to increase water monitoring in the Surat Basin by 12 per cent over the next three years – to approximately 630 monitoring points.
As outlined in the draft ‘2019 Underground Water Impact Report’ (UWIR), the increased surveillance would help track water flows connected to 22,000 bores across the Surat Basin and identify areas that could potentially be impacted by onshore gas production.
OGIA General Manager, Sanjeev Pandey, detailed that the UWIR aims to equip industry, landholders and government with the information they need to make informed decisions regarding underground water management in the Surat.
“This is Queensland’s third report for the Surat Basin since 2012, and it takes into account changes in the industry’s planned development, improvements in geological modelling, and new knowledge about groundwater flow.”
The draft report notes that current water extraction for onshore gas production in the Surat and southern Bowen Basin is at approximately 60,000 ML/year (which is treated and reused for agricultural purposes), while non-gas related extraction is around three times higher at 164,000 ML/year in the same area.
“There are currently 6,800 gas wells, with 21,000 projected by 2050, and increases in impacts and monitoring go hand in hand,” Mr Pandey added.
In Queensland, if a bore assessment shows that onshore gas production has, or has likely, impacted a bore then measures must be negotiated by the resource authority holders and the bore owner to ‘make good’ on the impact.
Mr Pandey further said that in the next three years, 101 water bores are predicted to be impacted, for which resource authority holders will need to do a bore assessment of and enter into make good arrangements.
“Once our final report takes effect, resource authority holders have on average 60 business days to make a bore assessment on these 101 bores.”
Other key points highlighted in the draft 2019 UWIR:
- 574 water bores are predicted to be impacted in the long term.
- In two important aquifers, the Hutton Sandstone and the Condamine Alluvium, predicted impacts are now less than those predicted in 2016. However, more impact is predicted in the Walloon Coal Measures and the Springbok Sandstone.
- Current onshore gas production water extraction is at approximately 60,000 ML/year from 6,800 wells. Average onshore gas production water extraction over the life of the industry is predicted to be around 51,000 ML/year.
- The estimate of unmetered non-gas groundwater extraction is about 164,000 ML/year, of which 41,000 ML/year is from the Great Artesian Basin. This is a 20 per cent reduction from the 2016 estimates.
The draft UWIR is now open for public feedback.
Public information sessions on the draft 2019 UWIR are scheduled to occur in five regional centres – Toowoomba, Dalby, Chinchilla, Roma and Wandoan – from 20 to 25 June 2019, with information on times and venues to be advised.
The draft UWIR is available to view here, with public comment closing on 01 July 2019.