By Danika Dent
ANTI-CSG campaign groups have jumped on a report by the State Government which shows the development of coal seam gas could lower the water table in Gippsland by more than 15 metres.
The report, ‘Onshore natural gas water science studies’, was released by the State Government on Wednesday last week, alongside its submission to the ongoing inquiry into unconventional gas in Victoria.
The water tables the report said are most at risk in central Gippsland – particularly around the Macalister Irrigation District, but extraction by other methods in Gippsland and the Otway region would only have low impacts on water users.
The studies modelled the potential impacts of possible onshore gas exploration and development (coal seam gas, shale and tight gas) on water users and ecosystems.
The Gippsland section of the report said the highest impact on water users and the environment was from CSG development with a 15 metre decline in the water table modelled, and reduced pressure in aquifers, which could lead to lower flows and reduced water quality.
However, much of the modelling data does not include swathes of land in South Gippsland and Bass Coast.
Executive director of Water Resources at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning said the studies were “designed to improve the technical understanding of the potential impacts on water resources including groundwater and surface water.
“They are an initial screening on a regional scale and look at the possible effects on different aquifers at different depths.
“The studies show that there are a range of different impacts that may result from any development.
“Some impacts may be seen across a range of areas including groundwater, surface water and ecosystems.
“Impacts would vary and some would be simpler to mitigate than others.
“The studies show that there would be a potential high impact from coal seam gas development in, broadly, the area south west of Sale extending almost to Yarram – including a potential decline of more than 15 metres in the water table.
“West of that area, above Wilson’s Promontory and up to Mirboo North, the studies find the potential impact on the water table and deeper aquifers as low.
“The potential for impacts is based on the distance to the prospective development area and the predicted changes to groundwater levels.”
The report states the impact on water users could be mitigated by measures such as limiting the scale and timing of gas extraction.
Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, said in its submission to the inquiry on July 22 that “the risks associated with unconventional gas can be managed effectively through the creation of a robust regulatory regime, underpinned by effective monitoring and compliance”.
The terms of reference for the State Government’s inquiry into unconventional gas also covers ‘risk mitigation’, ‘regulatory safeguards’ and ‘risk management’.
However, anti-CSG campaigners say any risk is too much.
“The words ‘manage’, ‘minimise’ and ‘mitigate’ pepper any text concerning unconventional gas mining,” Kilcunda resident Sarah Myhill said in her submission to the inquiry.
“Such mining is inherently dangerous and no amount of ‘minimising’ will alter that fact…
“Risk and loss in any [business] prospectus is of course only defined in terms of damage to the company’s bottom line and losses sustained by investors.
“Mining companies are not caring philanthropists seeking to balance profit with environmental considerations, they are corporations seeking the maximum profit for their investors.
“But the risk isn’t just their bottom line. It has much wider environmental consequences for communities.”
Arawata 100% against CSG
ARAWATA will be the first community in Victoria to declare itself coal seam gas free.
Other towns have signed up to be coal seam gas free with the Lock the Gate organisation, but none have been 100 per cent in favour before.
The community will celebrate with an event at the Arawata Hall on Sunday, August 30 at 2pm.
There will be guest speakers including Lock the Gate Victoria coordinator Ursula Alquier and councillors Andrew McEwen and Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks.
Submissions now closed
SUBMISSIONS to the State Government’s unconventional gas inquiry have now closed.
An interim report by the panel, which includes the Eastern Victoria MLCs Harriet Shing (ALP) and Leongatha’s Melina Bath (NAT), is due by September 1.
A final report is due on December 1, 2015 and the government then has six months to respond.
There have been more than 1000 submissions to the inquiry with more being processed every week.
Many of them come from South Gippsland, with active groups preparing pro-forma letters and petitions.
By contrast, other inquiries have received much less public interest: fuel drive offs (23 submissions), conduct of the 2014 state election (56), restricted dog breed legislation (218), and, end of life choices (300).
To read the unconventional gas inquiry submissions, including those for the industry, visit http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/epc/inquiry/406.