This Program provided transparent scientific information to better understand the potential impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining developments on water and water-dependent assets.
More information about potential impacts
There was 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 needed to undertake comprehensive scientific analyses in regions of prospective development—bioregional assessments.
Assessing regions of prospective development
Through the Australian Government-funded Bioregional Assessment Program, CSIRO collaborated 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 have increased the science available for decision making about the potential impacts of CSG and coal mine development on water resources and water dependent assets.
The Program targeted regions with significant coal deposits and focused on those regions subject to significant existing or anticipated mining activity.
Assessments were completed for 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).
Multidisciplinary teams from Geoscience Australia and CSIRO worked on all assessments.
Expert advice for decision makers
Results from the assessments are now available online from the Bioregional Assessments website.
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:
- assessed 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)
- investigated 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
- were 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.
In 2018 Bioregional Assessments received The Chairman’s Medal. This is the most prestigious of the CSIRO awards and is awarded to recognise exceptional research scientists or teams.