Mining ‘the biggest threat to our water resources’

Australia’s water resources face an unprecedented threat from inappropriate mining in drinking-water collection zones and vital groundwater recharge areas, according to the Lock the Gate Alliance.

The alliance has used the start of National Water Week to highlight the growing threat to the nation’s surface and groundwater resources from coal and unconventional gas mining across the country.

Its national coordinator, Phil Laird, said the nation’s water resources were facing an unprecedented threat from inappropriate mining in vital groundwater recharge areas and in drinking water collection zones.

‘The coal and unconventional gas industries pose a threat to both the quality of drinking water and farm supplies and to the quantity of water available to other industries and the environment,’ Mr Laird said.

‘Water is the one resource we cannot live without. We need a comprehensive national approach and strict “no-go” zones on mining to protect our vital water resources.

‘Just last week the Australian Water Association’s annual survey revealed that 70 per cent of the nation’s top water managers and water scientists saw CSG mining as a moderate to significant threat to our ground and surface water resources.

‘That warning followed an admission by the NSW EPA chief that concerns about CSG mining and its impact on water quality were “valid” and a report by the NSW Chief Scientist which highlighted serious risks to water supply.

‘Water resources in every state and territory are threatened by mining.

‘In NSW we have already seen the pollution of a groundwater aquifer with toxic materials including uranium at levels 20 times that considered safe for drinking after a CSG drilling waste pond leaked in the Pilliga State Forest in the state’s north-west.

‘Meanwhile, open-cut coal mines in the Hunter Valley have bought more than 50 per cent of “high security water” which is most prized by farmers in times of drought, and mining water discharges are driving up salinity.

‘In Queensland in the Darling Downs we have seen the Walloon Coal Measures water supply so depleted by coal seam gas mining that 85 water bores will run dry within the next two years and another more than 500 will be impacted in the longer term.

‘In addition the Queensland government is about to allow coal companies to extract a huge amount of inflow groundwater without even requiring a water licence.

‘In the NT an estimated 67,000 gas wells could be drilled and fracked from Katherine to south of Alice Springs in the next few years if the gas industry gets its way, and vast amounts of water will be used in the process.

‘In WA it is a similar story with unconventional gas mining about to start within a few kilometres of a major drinking water bore field in the mid-west.

‘In Victoria, the food growing areas of Gippsland and parts of the Otways and south western Victoria are already being pegged by the unconventional gas and coal industries.

‘In South Australia unconventional gas mining on the Limestone coast threatens the water that iconic industries like the wine industry rely on.

‘It is time government’s listened to the concerns of the scientists and the community, and put safe water as our highest priority.’


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