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Underground water

The extraction of underground water by petroleum tenure holders (including coal seam gas (CSG) operators) can result in a lowering of water levels in adjacent aquifers. This may impact upon water bores and natural springs in the surrounding area. The level of impact will vary depending on the:

  • aquifer that each water bore is tapping
  • degree of interconnection between the aquifers, the target petroleum and gas formation and springs
  • distance from the petroleum and gas field
  • time since the start of petroleum and gas extraction.

Petroleum and gas operators have the right to take associated water under the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 (PDF) as a necessary activity in the process of extracting petroleum and gas. This is because water is a by-product and is not used directly in the gas extraction process.

With their rights, petroleum and gas producers have an obligation to comply with the underground water management framework under the Water Act 2000 (PDF) (Water Act).

Quick Guide — Make Good Obligations (PDF, 371K) has been prepared to explain how impacts on landholder bores are identified and addressed. It also contains information about make good measures and the process for resolving complaints and disputes.

Underground water management framework

The Water Act underground water management framework:

  • requires petroleum tenure holders to undertake baseline assessments of water bores
  • requires petroleum tenure holders to prepare baseline assessment plans (BAPs)
  • requires petroleum tenure holders to prepare underground water impact reports (UWIRs)
  • provides for the chief executive to declare cumulative management areas (CMAs)
  • establishes make good obligations for petroleum tenure holders—including the requirement to undertake bore assessments and enter into make good agreements
  • establishes the Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment (OGIA) to oversee the groundwater impacts of the petroleum and gas industry.

Baseline assessments

A baseline assessment is an assessment of a water bore undertaken by a petroleum tenure holder (including CSG operators) to obtain information about the bore, including:

  • the level and quality of water in the bore
  • historical water use
  • how the bore is constructed
  • the type of infrastructure used to pump water from the bore.

Baseline assessments of water bores are required in areas where petroleum and gas production testing or production has started. They are intended to help with any potential ‘make good’ agreements and are a key step in managing the underground water impacts of petroleum and gas operators.

The Baseline assessment guideline (PDF, 130K) provides both petroleum and gas operators and bore owners with more information.

Baseline assessment plans

A baseline assessment plan (BAP) is prepared by petroleum tenure holders (including CSG operators) to plan the undertaking of baseline assessments. A BAP must be submitted before production testing or production first starts. A BAP must include a baseline assessment timetable which outlines dates for completing all baseline assessments.

Read more about baseline assessment plans (PDF, 60K).

Underground Water Impact Report

An Underground Water Impact Report (UWIR) is prepared to model, make predictions and manage the impacts of extraction of underground water by petroleum tenure holders (including CSG operators).

An UWIR assigns responsibility to petroleum tenure holders and ensures measures and programs are in place to respond to impacts on underground water.

The key elements of an UWIR are:

  • projections of potential future water level impacts
  • a comprehensive water monitoring strategy
  • a spring impact management strategy

Before submitting an UWIR to the department for assessment and approval, public consultation must be undertaken on the draft UWIR. This involves publishing a notice about the proposed UWIR, and giving a copy to each bore owner located within the area to which the UWIR relates.

The Underground Water Impact Reports and Final Reports (PDF, 116K) provides both petroleum and gas operators and bore owners with more information.

Read more about Underground water impact reports—ESR/2016/2397 (formerly EM1177) (PDF, 58K).

You can view the UWIRs which have been approved by the chief executive under section 385 of the Water Act. 

Cumulative management areas (CMAs)

A cumulative management area (CMA) may be declared in an area that is likely to experience an impact on underground water, due to the exercise of underground water rights by two or more petroleum tenure holders.

Declaring a CMA enables the assessment of future impacts using a regional modelling approach and the development of management responses that are relevant to the potential cumulative impacts.

Under Chapter 3 of the Water Act 2000 the chief executive declared a cumulative management area (CMA) (PDF, 18K) for the Surat and Southern Bowen Basin areas, including the alluvium of the Condamine River, in March 2011.

Read more about cumulative management areas.

Bore assessments

A bore assessment is undertaken by a petroleum tenure holder to establish whether a bore has, or is likely to have, an impaired capacity due to the extraction of underground water associated with petroleum and gas operations.

Bore assessments can be required by the chief executive or through an obligation in an UWIR.

The bore assessment guideline (PDF, 369K) provides responsible tenure holders and bore owners with details about the minimum requirements for undertaking bore assessments. Responsible tenure holders must comply with this guideline.

The bore assessment guideline provides responsible tenure holders and landholders details about the minimum requirements for undertaking bore assessments. Responsible tenure holders must comply with this guideline.

The bore assessment guideline was updated in February 2016 following targeted consultation. The revised guideline removed the preliminary bore assessment method and includes a number of minor, clarifying amendments. The consultation report (PDF, 108K) summarises the results of targeted consultation undertaken.

Make good agreements

A make good agreement is an arrangement between a petroleum tenure holder and water bore owner.

If it is determined through the bore assessment that a bore has, or is likely to have, an ‘impaired capacity’ the make good agreement must provide details on the make good measures to be undertaken by the petroleum tenure holder to ‘make good’ the impact.

If there is a disagreement about a make good agreement, either party may seek a conference or independent alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to negotiate a resolution of the dispute. To seek a conference or ADR, the requesting party must complete an election notice (Word, 152K)* and provide a copy to the  and the other party. 

The Quick Guide — Make Good Obligations (PDF, 371K) explains the purpose of a bore assessment and make good agreement. It also contains information about make good measures and the process for resolving complaints and disputes.

The Frequently Asked Questions – Make Good Obligations also includes information about bore assessments and make good agreements.

Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment

The Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment (OGIA) is an independent entity, established under Chapter 3A of the Water Act 2000, and is responsible for managing groundwater impacts in CMAs.

When a CMA has been declared, the OGIA becomes responsible for preparing an UWIR for the CMA. The UWIR for the CMA will assign responsibilities to relevant petroleum tenure holders.

For more information about the OGIA, refer to the OGIA website.

On 31 May 2016, the OGIA submitted the second UWIR for the Surat CMA (Surat UWIR) to the department. The Surat UWIR was approved with conditions on 24 August 2016, and took effect on 19 September 2016.

Read more about the approved Surat UWIR.

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Last updated
21 October 2016