The community group Save Alstonville Aquifer (SAA) are strenuously oppose the extraction of bottled water from Alstonville aquifer, the group’s submission lodged today focuses attention on a development application to mine water currently before Ballina Shire Council.
SAA are responding to the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer’s initial report into the impacts of the bottled water industry in the Northern Rivers region.
The report is a preliminary report only. As such it brings together information about the Northern Rivers aquifers without drawing any significant conclusions and certainly without any recommendations. SAA hope this will change in the final report.
What they are pleased about is that the terms of reference for the review have been expanded to include examination of socio-economic issues and environmental impacts of bottled water extraction. These new terms of reference have been added since the initial report was published.
SAA say the aquifer is already under considerable stress, citing evidence pointing to decline going back more than 20 years.
They say groundwater dependent ecosystems, including nearby populations of endangered species, stand to be adversely affected by water mining.
Spokesperson for SAA Mike Hogan says the local community is unequivocally opposed to bottled water extraction. ‘This is evidenced by over 1,000 submissions to Ballina Shire Council opposing the development application,’ he said. ‘Water mining for industrial purposes is incompatible with defined objectives for RU1-zoned land which is land designated for primary production.’
SAA says the precautionary principle should be applied by legislators/regulators when considering bottled water extraction from the Alstonville Plateau.
‘Expanding the bottled water industry would be irresponsible in light of increasing evidence of devastating damage caused by plastic on the world’s environment.
‘Heavy transport vehicles on narrow rural roads in the Alstonville area pose an unacceptable safety hazard.’
Mr Hogan says that industrial extraction of water would likely have a serious impact on people and ecosystems in the Alstonville area. ‘There are zero socio-economic benefits for local residents,’ he said. ‘The water will be transported for bottling to Queensland and perhaps exported from Australia. The Alstonville community would be left with depleted water reserves, damaged roads and significant loss of amenity.’