How to use this assessment

Findings from bioregional assessments can help governments, industry and the community provide better-informed regulatory, water management and planning decisions.

Assessment results flag where future efforts of regulators and proponents can be directed, and where further attention is not necessary. This is emphasised through the ‘rule-out’ process, which focuses on areas where hydrological changes are predicted. In doing so it has identified areas, and consequently water resources and water-dependent assets, that are very unlikely to experience hydrological change or impact due to additional coal resource development.

This assessment predicts the likelihood of exceeding levels of potential hydrological change at a regional level. It also provides important context to identify potential issues that may need to be addressed in local-scale environmental impact assessments of new coal resource developments. It should help project proponents to meet legislative requirements to describe the environmental values that may be affected by the exercise of underground water rights, and to adopt strategies to avoid, mitigate or manage the predicted impacts. These assessments do not investigate the broader social, economic or human health impacts of coal resource development, nor do they consider risks of fugitive gases and non-water-related impacts.

Bioregional assessments are not a substitute for careful assessment of proposed coal mine or CSG extraction projects under Australian or state environmental law. Such assessments may use finer-scale groundwater and surface water models and consider impacts on matters other than water resources. However, the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (a federal government statutory authority established in 2012 under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) can use these assessment results to formulate their advice.

Bioregional assessments have been developed with the ability to be updated, for example, to incorporate new coal resource developments in the groundwater model. Existing datasets such as the water-dependent asset register remain relevant for future assessments. If new coal resource developments emerge in the future, the data, information, analytical results and models from this assessment would provide a comprehensive basis for bioregion-scale re-assessment of potential impacts under an updated CRDP. It may also be applicable for other types of resource development.

The full suite of information, including information for individual assets, is provided at Access to underpinning datasets, including shapefiles of geographic data and modelling results, can assist decision makers at all levels to review the work undertaken to date; to explore the results using different thresholds (Box 9); and to extend or update the assessment if new models or data become available. Additional guidance about how to apply the Programme’s methodology is also documented in detailed scientific submethodologies (as listed in ‘References and further reading’).

The Programme’s rigorous commitment to data access is consistent with the Australian Government’s principles of providing publicly accessible, transparent and responsibly managed public sector information.

Last updated:
5 January 2018