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11 responses to “Behind the Seams: Agriculture, land use and aquifers”

  1. David Irving (no relation)

    I went to a symposium (yes, there was drinking) on Tuesday evening about the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and a member of the audience brought up something that I’d not heard before. Apparently there is a possibility of using water from saline aquifers in the basin in the CSG extraction process.

  2. Dale Stiller

    Thanks Brian for the time & effort you took to write this in depth anylisis of how CSG affects underground water.
    The Govt allowed this industry to start at a full gallop without knowing or possibly caring how it would affect the landowners, food security, environment and importantly the aquifiers which includes the very important Great Artesian Basin.
    With time & research ways could have been found around these problems. In this youtube a researcher from CQ university explains his work in providing a solution to one problem.

  3. John D

    Mining and exploration leases are granted on the condition that proposals meet a number of conditions including environmental ones. Plans that cover protection of the environment, dealing with waste etc. are normally part of the deal. The miner is expected to meet current requirements, not the requirements that were in place when the lease was granted
    As far as I know there is no compensation if the rules change after a lease is granted. Given the things that have been going on it would not seem unreasonable for the government to tighten up the rules to deal with problems that have been discovered since the original leases were granted.
    As you say Brian it is all about a balancing of risks in an area where there is a lot of emotion floating around. If nothing else, the government should probably be banning any drill holes that go through important alluvium based water resources (too hard to grout and protect) and insisting on properly thought through proposals for dealing with saline water coming up from the gas bearing measures.

  4. Dale stiller

    This week the University of Syndey sent out a media release with the information that an article will be published by Professor Alan Randall in the Environment and Planning Law Journal.

    Australia would greatly benefit from a “slow down and learn approach” to managing possible risks from coal seam gas extraction given the near impossible challenge of modelling its impacts

    Coal seam gas development (CSG) has a much greater footprint on the land and environment than the fairly modest area devoted to its well-heads would suggest, given the need for accompanying infrastructure such as roads, pipes, processing and waste storage and treatment facilities.

    “It will impact rural and community ways of life and reduce agricultural productivity everywhere it operates.”

    While the necessary modelling exercise for CSG would be enormous, the problem goes beyond that, according to Professor Randall. The cumulative shock to the system from CSG will be so large that standard modelling methods, better suited to modelling marginal changes, will be increasingly inaccurate and perhaps literally misdirected.

    “The scale of planned CSG development is far beyond anything yet experienced. It is not just that we have not convincingly modelled the cumulative impacts of projected groundwater withdrawals for CSG, we simply don’t know how to do it for shocks as great as CSG will create.”

    The key elements of a “slow down and learn” approach to CSG, as outlined by Professor Randall, would include curtailing CSG expansion until the completion of in-depth scientific studies and analysis of the impacts of existing CSG extraction technology on soil, the surface and the aquifers and developed and tested models of cumulative impact including:
    •a study of impacts on groundwater
    •research to design state of the art and cost-effective waste water treatment technologies, and
    •a comprehensive plan to direct, manage and control future expansion of CSG extraction

    “Adaptive management is essentially reactive – basically, feeling our way in the dark – and is a perfectly acceptable trial-and-error approach to unanticipated problems. Defaulting to adaptive management in the case of CSG, where we still have time to be proactive, is more like standing aside while the lights go out and then feeling our way in the dark,” Professor Randall said.

  5. Dale Stiller

    Sorry, I didn’t provide a link in my last comment to the quote given.

    Also I note that to obtain a copy of the Environmental & Planning Law Journal you have to fork out in excess of $1,800. It is a pity that the thoughts of Professor Randall weren’t more freely available.

  6. David Irving (no relation)

    I’m surprised you haven’t had more traffic myself, Brian. I suspect many people’s attention has been focussed on your recent election.

    I’m ambivalent about CSG. I don’t believe it’ll cause anything like the problems they’ve had in the US with gas from shale, but I do worry about damage to fresh aquifers. I think you’re right about the long-term result too: it’s likely every one of these wells will eventually be fracked to squeeze the last few molecules of gas out.

  7. Michele

    Thank you very much for taking the time to put this article together. It is a very useful resource and presents a balanced overview. I have been sharing it widely.

    [Thanks Michele, and jumpy below – Brian]

  8. jumpy

    Bulgaria is reviewing its ban on shale gas exploration and production.
    Maybe a political outcome rather than scientific but some findings may be useful to the Aust debate.

    ( appreciate your toil Brian)

  9. Dale Stiller

    In NSW a political solution was promised before the election and until now remains undelivered. NSW Farmers aren’t waiting indefinitely and are organising buses from throughout NSW to descend upon the State capital for a rally on May 1st.
    I can’t recall anything too specific being promised in the recent Qld election. Such was the shift of the electorate that there was no need to focus on detail and CSG went under the radar.
    As for a scientific outcome there is concern that gas industry funding of CSG research centres could be compromised and concern of how independent is the panel set up by the Federal minister, Martin Ferguson to oversee the research centre.

    [Comments are still open at the cross-posting over at FAQ/Crikey, where I’ve commented on yours @ 2, Dale – Brian]