One of the major concerns for landholders is the potential impact CSG will have on underground water. The extraction of CSG involves dewatering the coal seam, which has the potential to affect the pressure, volume and quality of groundwater that many Queensland landholders rely on.
A step landholders can take themselves to protect their groundwater is a baseline assessment of bore conditions and current water uses. This assessment helps provide valuable data that may provide evidence of any groundwater changes and resulting impacts to your bore as a result of CSG activities.
If you have not been approached by a company to conduct activities, you need to consider your circumstances, the risk posed to your property from surrounding activities and the cost to your business before you get a baseline assessment. If you have been approached by a CSG company wishing to conduct exploratory activities on your property you should consider negotiating baseline assessments of your bore/s (consider surface water as well) as part of your conduct and compensation agreement (CCA). It must be noted that during the exploration phase (Authority To Prospect-ATP) there is no legal obligation on the company to undertake this assessment but that doesn't stop you discussing it as an important aspect of your access agreement. As with all agreements you need to seek professional legal advice during this process.
AgForce has developed a Bore Assessment Checklist that you can review considering your circumstances, water uses and professional advice.
When a company moves from exploration into production (Petroleum Lease-PL) it is required under the Water Act to carry out a baseline assessment of all bores in its tenure area. If you are approached to have a baseline assessment carried out make sure that you are given sufficient time (minimum time under the act is 10 business days), you understand what test is being carried out and any disruption to your business. The act also requires that landholders are given a copy of the report within 30 business days from the test being carried out. As part of your agreement and depending on the scope of activities being carried out, you may wish to consider ongoing testing/monitoring or bores.
For more information about amendments to the Water Act 2000 and protecting underground water please visit the Queensland Government's underground water page.
Find out more information on baseline assessment requirements.
Queensland legislation requires that when a CSG company moves into production or petroleum testing, they develop groundwater management plans or underground water impact reports (UWIR). These reports contain information on the regional groundwater use, local aquifers and conditions, geology, hydrogeology, predicted yearly CSG water extraction and monitoring programs throughout the relevant tenures. These groundwater models are required to capture groundwater conditions and predict any potential impacts to landholder bores and springs as a result of CSG extraction.
In the Surat Basin, a regional framework called the Surat Cumulative Management Area (CMA) has been developed to capture the cumulative impacts from companies operating in this area. All four companies, Santos, QGC, Arrow Energy and Origin, supplied information and data into this model.
A Surat UWIR was developed by the Queensland Water Commission (QWC) over the course of 2011-2012. The QWC has since been disbanded, and the model, along with all QWC responsibilities, has been rolled into the Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment (OGIA), part of the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DRNM). In late 2012 the model was approved by the department and is now in action.
The Surat UWIR identifies two areas where impacts are predicted to occur; an immediately affected area (IAA) and a long term affected area (LTAA).
The IAA is where bores are predicted to experience a reduced/impaired capacity within three years of the model. In this area there are 85 landholder bores.
The LTAA are bores which are predicted to experience an impact as a result of CSG outside this three year period. The model has identified 528 bores in this area.
The model allows landholders to search by individual bore ID to see if their bore is predicted to experience an impact.
Read the UWIR for more information on the model including the initial results and to search for individual bores.
If CSG extraction is affecting or predicted to affect a water bore, the company responsible is obligated to restore the bores capacity, provide the landholder with an alternative supply or pay compensation. This is called 'Make Good' and is regulated under the Water Act.
For the 58 bores in the IAA of the UWIR, the responsible companies will be directed by DNRM to undertake bore assessments to substantiate the model predictions and investigate possible 'Make Good' provisions.
If you are approached by a CSG company to have a baseline or bore assessment undertaken or enter into a 'Make Good' arrangement you should take the same approach as if they were negotiating a conduct and compensation agreement (CCA) for drilling CSG wells, including obtaining legal advice, assessing overall property impacts and contacting AgForce Projects CSG project staff with any questions.
CSG online groundwater portal
The Queensland Government, in partnership with the four major CSG companies in the Surat and Bowen basins, operate an online CSG groundwater portal to provide the latest information on groundwater monitoring in the Surat and Bowen basins.
The portal maps the locations of private water bores and springs along with gas production sites and exploration wells. It also details historical water levels and salinity records (measured as conductivity). Water levels and salinity records from selected monitoring bores operated by the government are also available.
This should not preclude landholders from monitoring their own bore for quantity, pressure and contaminants as it may be difficult to prove an impact from a third party when the original condition was not documented prior to CSG activities occurring. This is why baseline assessments are important.
View the CSG groundwater portal here.
For up-to-date results of surface and groundwater monitoring programs visit Santos GLNG Water Portal.
The CSG Project is delivered by AgForce Projects with the support of the Queensland Government, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, Queensland Resources Council and the GasFields Commission Queensland.