Providing transparent scientific information to better understand the potential impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining developments on water and water-dependent assets.

The challenge

More information about potential impacts

There is a need for authoritative information about the risks and potential impacts to water resources arising from expanding coal mining and coal seam gas (CSG) developments. To be able to understand the potential impacts, we need to undertake comprehensive scientific analyses in regions of prospective development—bioregional assessments.

Pilliga Water Bore

Our response

Assessing regions of prospective development

Through the Australian Government-funded Bioregional Assessment Programme, CSIRO is collaborating with the Department of the Environment and Energy, the Bureau of Meteorology and Geoscience Australia to undertake a series of bioregional assessments.

A bioregional assessment is a scientific analysis of a particular area including its ecology, hydrology, geology and hydrogeology, with explicit assessment of the potential impacts of CSG and coal mining development on water resources and water-dependent assets such as wetlands and groundwater bores.

The assessments will increase the science available for decision making about the potential impacts of CSG and coal mine development on water resources and water dependent assets.

Areas being assessed

The Programme targets regions with significant coal deposits and focuses on those regions subject to significant existing or anticipated mining activity.

Map of the six bioregions, and subregions, being used in the Bioregional Assessment Programme

Assessments are currently underway in the following bioregions:

  • The Galilee, Cooper, Pedirka and Arckaringa subregions, within the Lake Eyre Basin bioregion (Queensland and South Australia)
  • The Maranoa-Balonne-Condamine, Gwydir, Namoi and Central West subregions within the Northern Inland Catchments bioregion (New South Wales and Queensland)
  • The Clarence-Moreton bioregion (New South Wales and Queensland)
  • The Hunter and Gloucester subregions within the Northern Sydney Basin bioregion (New South Wales)
  • The Sydney Basin bioregion (New South Wales)
  • The Gippsland Basin bioregion (Victoria).

CSIRO is leading assessments for the following bioregions:

  • Northern Inland Catchments
  • Clarence-Moreton
  • Northern Sydney Basin
  • Sydney Basin.

Geoscience Australia is leading the Lake Eyre Basin and Gippsland Basin bioregional assessments.

Multidisciplinary teams from across both agencies are working on all assessments.

The results

Expert advice for decision makers

Bioregional assessments are a source of information that the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development can use to formulate their advice to the Australian Government on decisions under the Commonwealth's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, and to state government regulators.

The bioregional assessments:

  • assess the potential impacts, particularly focusing on regional scale and cumulative impacts, due to CSG and open-cut and underground coal mining developments (in the past, present and foreseeable future)
  • investigate risk by indicating the level of impact and the probability of that impact occurring
  • are made up of a number of products such as registers, models and reports which are available to the public
  • are developed by independent scientific experts in the fields of ecology, hydrology, hydrogeology, geology, informatics (computer information systems) and risk analysis, in consultation with state government agencies, catchment management authorities, local governments, and industry groups and their members.

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