A rural lawyer says he doubts that farmers and graziers will receive the benefits that the Queensland Government suggests they will from its moves to provide access to water from unused coal seam gas wells.
Earlier this week the Queensland Government introduced legislation to Parliament that, if passed, would allow unused CSG wells drilled after 2011 to be converted into water bores for use by farmers and graziers.
Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps said that reforms were based on “common sense” and could represent significant benefits and cost savings for landholders.
The amendments to the Land, Water and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 apply to petroleum wells where drilling of the well commenced on or after January 1, 2012.
Tom Marland from Creevey Russell Lawyers said he holds doubts as to the practical application of the new policy and whether there will be any tangible benefits for landholders affected by CSG developments.
“The new policy seems at odds practically with the findings included in the Surat Underground Water Impact Report released by the Queensland Water Commission that predicts that 100 existing water bores will be destroyed across the Surat Basin in the next five years and 500 water bores will be lost over the life of the CSG industry,” Mr Marland said.
“We are representing several landholders who are being presented with make good agreements from CSG companies and are facing the loss of all of their underground water rights.”
Mr Marland said it seemed optimistic to think that ‘additional’ access to water resources in affected aquifers will be made available through converted CSG bores.
“Practically, in the Surat Basin, CSG is mainly obtained from the Walloon Coal measures so any water would have to come from that resource.
Given the findings of the Queensland Water Commission there will be limited and declining access to groundwater reserves in those aquifers.
“We have clients in the Galilee Basin who have already entered into arrangements with CSG companies to convert deep, exploration wells to water bores. This is a significant advantage.
“However the Galilee Basin is a completely different structure to that of the Bowen and Surat Basin.
“Without sounding cynical, this policy sounds like an attempt by the CSG industry and the State Government to promote the perceived benefits of their activities to shield the very real and serious impacts they are having on underground water resources, particularly in the Surat Basin.”