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October 28, 2021

Suspend water extraction say Tweed Council

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The question of whether or not mining should be allowed in the Northern Rivers has once again been raised and the issue is being brought to the table in the NSW Parliament.

A B-Double carting water in Tweed Shire.

Today the Tweed Shire Council is writing to NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey to request that ‘all licences for bulk water extraction for commercial water bottling be temporarily suspended’ in the Tweed Shire.

The Mayoral minute was passed at last weeks Tweed Council meeting (Thursday, 5 December) on the casting vote of the Tweed Mayor Katie Milne. Councillors K Milne, C Cherry,  and R Cooper voted in favour, councillors W Polglase, Cr J Owen, and Cr P Allsop voted against and Councillor R Byrnes was absent.

Under state control

The water extraction licenses for commercial water bottling facilities and bulk water extraction are approved by the state government not by local councils. In extreme drought conditions the water minister can temporarily suspend the extraction licences.

Council’s motion highlight’s that there are many waterways ‘with low/no flows in the Tweed Shire’.

According to president of the Northern Rivers Guardians Scott Sledge there are also many farmers and agricultural producers who have said that their bores are running dry.

Bottled water a small percentage

Responding to Echonetdaily Melinda Pavey’s office pointed to the NSW Northern Rivers Bottled Water Final Report that was released on in October this year that states:

The Review identified seven operators in the Northern Rivers region with allocations of 240.5 ML/year who are actively extracting for water bottling purposes. This represents 0.55 per cent of water licences and basic landholder rights, and 0.008 per cent of the estimated total annual aquifer recharge in the four relevant groundwater sources.’

While they identify that bottled water extraction is a small percentage of water use in the region the report also highlights that this is only based on the available information and that there is a ‘lack of monitoring detecting these impacts’.

Waterways are running dry throughout the Northern Rivers as the drought continues to impact the region. Photo Aslan Shand.

Highly complex water systems

Associate professor Peter Coombes who was recently appointed as chair of engineering and associate professor in water resources engineering at Southern Cross University emphasised the complexity of understanding and assessing the water resources in this region.

‘It is difficult if not impossible to asses the the water capacity in these very complex and highly variable geological structures under the ground,’ said associate professor Coombes.

He pointed out that the Northern Rivers region has a range of different aquifers from Lennox Head to Alstonville to Tweed.

‘There are shallow aquifers that respond immediately to rainfall and deeper aquifers in the soil that have much older water in them and take far longer to respond. When you use artesian basin water you may not be getting it back for a millennium or two’

Local assessment needed

He pointed out that the bottled water report was a regional assessment and that while they did the best they could with the available information ‘you need to have a closer look at what is happening’.

‘That is just some regional average assessment. What we need to be looking for is if creeks are drying up down stream from the extraction sites. Water extraction may make quite a difference in a creek below an extraction site.’

He identified the recent report of the Tamborine Mountain state school that has run out of water and the fact that their bore has run dry. Parents have been told to consider keeping their children at home according to The Guardian report while the education department is now bringing water into the school, including Mount Tamborine bottled water.

Commercial water mining in the Mount Tamborine area extracts around 130m litres of water a year The Guardian article states. One local resident said the schools bore had never run dry before.

‘Your local streams and ground water are linked,’ said associate professor Coombes.

With a range of vested interests, lobbying, the imbalance of power between parties and the multiple jurisdictions that contribute to the management of water, from local councils to state and federal government, managing water for the best interests of all Australians including residents and farmers as well as fauna and flora is challenging. 

‘We are going to be increasingly challenged around water and we need to keep changing our approach,’ said associate professor Coombes.

‘We’ve done quite well so far in relation to water management in Australia using sophisticated, successful techniques that have been and world recognised. But now we need to move forward into a new phase because the current processes aren’t working. We need to meet the current and future changes of the water challenge in Australia.’


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5 COMMENTS

  1. Water extraction should be halted permanently. We are now in crisis times and this practice is taking water from our local environment and impacting the ground water conditions so much that there is no longer any moisture in the environment, in the forests – including rainforests making them hugely suseptible to fires.
    We are now seeing rainforests burn which has never happened before.

  2. Plus the lunacy of using fossil fuels to transport around the country, a commodity that most people have literally on tap. Plus the one-off use of plastic containers that are then, at best, transported around the countryside to be recycled into products we have a finite use of. One of the easier ways we can reduce our footprint.

  3. All water extraction should be stopped permanently, the creek that runs through my property has been dry for months, any rain we do receive just disappears into the ground, I am buying water in for stock this has never happened before until water has been taken from bores near by to be sold for profit, water is light air it should be available all the time, not channeling into greedy peoples pockets.

  4. The issues around Climate Change are so complex and solutions to many of them so hard to find but here is one very important thing that can be fixed so easily. Just stop all underground water extraction and there are fewer plastic bottles, fewer trucks on the roads, more water in the rivers and creeks and water falls and aquifers, which means fewer bushfires and forests that are healrhy even in times ofdrought with preserved habitat, and wild life, cleaner oxygenated air, good evaporation resulting in better rain fall. AND IT IS SO EASY TO STOP IT. Why would any intelligent person on any level of gov Not stop it? THE PEOPLE WHO ELECT YOU ARE BEGGING YOU TO STOP IT.

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