Water Journal : Current Feb 2017
However, we remain a long way from gaining a complete understanding of the complexities of and relationships between all of the country's various aquifer systems, Taylor said. "Not all groundwater systems in the country are equally characterised, and such knowledge is critical to support regional development," he said. "There is a need for improved understanding of the landscape and hydrogeological settings of Australia's groundwater systems. This influences our knowledge on the groundwater balance: recharge to and discharge from aquifers, and surface and groundwater interaction. "Better understanding and quantifying the interconnection between groundwater systems in large geological basins with shallow groundwater is critical, particularly for the sustainable development of the resource sectors." In some regions, there is poor measurement and regulation of groundwater extraction. Jacobs Principal Hydrogeologist Dr Richard Evans said there was lax enforcement of illegal pumping in some jurisdictions. "We need to get serious about enforcing laws surrounding people who have illegal bores or who are illegally pumping," he said. "Currently, there are few implications. If people want water, they just go and pump groundwater. It's illegal use but they don't worry about it because the compliance process is weak in some jurisdictions." To University of New South Wales Associate Professor and Connected Waters Initiative Research Centre Member Bryce Kelly, part of the problem is a lack of precision in monitoring groundwater extraction. "Measurements of stock and domestic use in many areas is just guesswork," he said. OUT OF MINE Kelly also called for better monitoring networks around coal mines, as well as oil and gas projects. "Why is it that we have hundreds of groundwater monitoring locations assessing irrigation impacts in the Namoi Catchment but only six coal seam gas (CSG) monitoring wells initially planned to monitor the Pilliga coal seam gas developments?" he said. "We need all catchment water balance models in the public domain so that others can explore conceptual and calibration issues with the models." He's not the only one concerned, with the Australian Water Association's recently released Australian Water Outlook finding that more than half of Australia's water professionals are concerned about the possible impacts of the extraction of unconventional gases -- such as coal seam, shale and tight -- could have on water supplies, with community concern even higher. Almost two-thirds of water professionals also thought water trigger legislation should cover all unconventional gas extraction, while just 13% thought there was adequate scientific information on the impacts of unconventional gas on water. However, some recent strides have been made in the field, with a recent CSIRO study shedding light on how to reinject large volumes of water produced by CSG extraction without compromising water quality. Experiments on re-injection at Reedy Creek and Condabri -- both in Queensland's Surat Basin, where CSG extraction produces an average of 70GL of water annually -- found that stripping oxygen from treated CSG water prior to reinjecting it could prevent the mobilisation of harmful chemicals such as arsenic.
Water Journal November 2016
Current May 2017