The Australian Government is undertaking a programme of bioregional assessments in order to better understand the potential impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining developments on water resources and water-related assets. The Bioregional Assessment Programme is one of a number of actions being undertaken by the Australian Government to strengthen the science underpinning decision making on coal seam gas and large coal mining developments.
The science-based studies follow a methodology to develop multi-layered records of the natural environment in specific bioregions. The studies will analyse the ecology, hydrology, geology and hydrogeology of bioregions, with explicit assessment of potential direct, indirect and cumulative impacts on water resources both above and below ground. In general, the findings are at a community level, rather than on a property basis.
Products from the bioregional assessments could include compilations of relevant data, descriptions of coal resources, lists of water-dependent assets, conceptual models, diagrams of water balances, outputs of numerical and analytical models, lists of possible risks and their likelihoods, and descriptions of the possible impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining developments on water resources.
The bioregional assessments are being delivered through a collaboration between the Department of the Environment, the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO and Geoscience Australia.
More than 100 scientists are contributing to the bioregional assessments between now and 2016. The bioregional assessments are accessing local expertise, including through natural resource management and catchment management organisations, Indigenous peoples, state governments, industry and universities, at a number of points throughout the analysis.
The bioregional assessments will provide a single authoritative source for all interested parties to refer to when considering the water-related impacts of potential coal seam gas and coal mining developments. The information will be available to government regulators, natural resource managers, coal seam gas and coal mining companies, and interested community members. The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC) will use the bioregional assessments to inform its consideration and provision of advice to Commonwealth and state government regulators on the water-related impacts of specific development proposals.
Data and analyses will be released on this website over the life of each bioregional assessment, providing an increasing source of accessible information to the public.
A key input to the bioregional assessments is the development of asset databases for bioregions. Through funding provided by the Australian Government, natural resource management organisations in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria have developed databases of assets for their regions. The databases provide a range of information about the assets and will form a key input into development of the water-dependent asset registers for each bioregion. State and Commonwealth ecological and economic data is also considered in the development of the water-dependent asset registers.
The Bioregional Assessment Programme is targeting the following regions: