4 Assessing water dependence of assets

It is the role of individual bioregion or subregion Assessment teams to assess water dependence of assets for specific bioregional assessments (BAs). This means identifying all assets in the asset list that may be potentially impacted by changes in the groundwater or surface water regime due to coal resource development. While the vast majority of the assets will be clearly 'water dependent' in the general sense of the phrase (e.g. bores, rivers and wetlands), there is a small group of assets that could be affected but are not as readily identified as being 'water dependent'. Examples of these assets could include historic buildings that are subject to added inundation or salinity impacts, or Indigenous assets that become more difficult to access due to changes in the water regime. This more particular meaning of 'water-dependence' has been defined to meet the specific requirements of the BA methodology which is focussed on 'assets potentially subject to water-related impacts' rather than only on 'impacts on water-dependent assets'.

4.1 Ecological assets

Though all life is dependent on water, for the purposes of a BA, an ecological water-dependent asset is one that is potentially impacted by changes in the groundwater and/or surface water regime due to coal resource development. The water must be other than local rainfall.

Most ecological assets are water dependent. Landscape features such as wetlands, springs, rivers, pools, riffles, lakes, catchments, etc. are clearly water dependent and thus clearly have potential to be impacted. Terrestrial groundwater-dependent ecosystems (GDEs; e.g. coolibah-black box woodlands) are water dependent, though the mapping that is currently available (e.g. the GDE Atlas (Bureau of Meteorology, 2012)) must provide information of a high enough standard (e.g. adequate identification data) for the Assessment teams to determine whether they should be included in the asset register. The water dependence of species’ habitat, based on their potential species distributions, will depend on the ecology of the species and is less certain. The habitats of species such as frogs, fish and waterbirds are clearly water dependent. For other habitats, the Assessment team must make a determination as to the potential for water-related impacts based on the potential species distributions, the species’ preferred habitat, feeding, reproduction, behaviour and other relevant factors.

Multiple lines of evidence are used including published habitat information and expert opinion. All decisions to either include or exclude an asset from the register (and thus deciding further participation in a BA) are to be recorded in the asset database (see Section 4.4) and reported in product 1.3. As an example, consider the following evidence about the Ooline (Cadellia penatasylis), which is a medium sized spreading tree growing to 10 to 25 m on the western edges of the NSW north-west slopes and extending into Queensland. The species is listed as vulnerable under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and its habitat includes dry rainforest, semi evergreen vine thickets and sclerophyll communities (Curran and Curran, 2005). The population located near Gunnedah falls within the preliminary assessment extent (PAE) of the Namoi subregion of the Northern Inland Catchments bioregion (Figure 6) and is significant because it represents the southernmost distribution limit for this species (Curran and Curran, 2005). Another line of evidence obtained through studying the habitat requirements within the Blackjack mountain population and the associated vegetation communities (Curran and Curran, 2005) suggests that these communities have no access to groundwater. This is supported by further lines of evidence based on distribution data, showing species and community have no association with stream edges or riparian vegetation, and botanical information, indicating the sclerophyllous nature of the vegetation and the semi-evergreen nature of associated vegetation communities. To conclude findings, external expert opinion was sought which confirmed the conclusion that neither the species nor habitat is likely to be dependent on groundwater or surface water and thus not subject to water-related impacts by coal resource development. Hence, the potential species distribution of Ooline will not be judged to be a water-dependent asset and thus is not in the asset register. Should new information become available about this species, that judgment could be changed.

Figure 6

Figure 6 Modelled species distribution of Ooline (Cadellia pentastylis) in relation to the preliminary assessment extent of the Namoi subregion of the Northern Inland Catchments bioregion

Example only; do not use for analysis.

4.2 Economic assets

All economic assets include a right to take and use water from a waterway, catchment dam, spring, soak or aquifer, whether for basic water rights (domestic and stock) or a water access right. This inherent reliance on water implies that all economic assets are water dependent and have the potential to be subject to water-related impacts due to coal resource development.

4.3 Sociocultural assets

While many sociocultural assets, such as historic buildings, are unlikely to be water dependent in the usual sense, for the purposes of a BA, some may be included as they are subject to potential water-related impacts due to coal resource development such as inundation. For example, floodplain mapping could be used to identify potentially impacted assets, though methods may need to vary with each bioregion or subregion given the variation in the quality and methods of floodplain mapping. Other sociocultural assets will be assessed by the Assessment team on a case-by-case basis when they become available and reviewed by the community and experts with local knowledge during engagement workshops. Where possible and appropriate, and with the agreement of Indigenous knowledge holders, Indigenous water-related values will be incorporated into BA products. Meetings are planned with Indigenous knowledge holders to discuss Indigenous cultural water-dependent assets.

4.4 Completion of the water-dependent asset register

Once the potential for water-related impacts by coal resource development has been determined for an asset (see Section 4.1 to Section 4.3) by the combined efforts of the Assessment team and the Assets and Receptors Project team, ‘flags’ are set in the asset database indicating that status for each asset. For each asset the flag must be either 'yes' or 'no' to indicate whether the asset is included in or excluded from the asset register. A flag set to 'yes' indicates that the asset is 'registered' for inclusion in other BA components.

A rationale or justification should be recorded in the asset database for each decision to include or exclude any particular asset or class of assets. It should also be documented in product 1.3. Any data shortfalls due, for example, to its unavailability or inadequate information content should be documented in product 1.3.

The water-dependent asset register is a defined list of assets that fall within, or intersect, the PAE of the bioregion or subregion and have passed the test of being potentially impacted by changes to the water regime. It corresponds to the assets within the ‘AssetList’ table (see AppendixA , TableA.3) of the asset database that are 'flagged' to be included in other BA components. A listing of the register can be generated at any time as ‘reporting output’ from the asset database.

A preliminary version of the asset register, with associated maps and data, is presented to experts and organisations with local knowledge at organised workshops. Participants typically include land managers, water managers, environmental managers, councils, government and industry. Their feedback is sought about whether the register is complete and correct; appropriate amendments are then made by the Assessment team and the Assets and Receptors Project team including with additional data identified during the workshop. Team leaders can make arrangements for a final viewing of the register by workshop participants before completion if they think it is necessary.

It is at this stage – when assets have been selected using the PAE, the amended and additional assets have been recorded in the asset database, the database error checked and deposited in the data repository – that the formal asset register is complete for the purposes of producing product 1.3. Note that the addition of new assets to the asset database, or a review of the status of existing assets in the database due to, for example, a change in the available information about those assets, will mean that the asset register may be updated (i.e. flags and reasons added or amended). As this has implications for other components of a BA, any updates must be documented and done with approval and tight version control. The product 1.3 will not be updated or republished but an updated version of the asset register (derived from the asset database) may be published at the same time as other products, for example, those associated with Component 3: Impact analysis of a BA.

The asset register is a simple and authoritative listing of the names of the assets that will be included in other components of a BA; all the spatial and other data associated with each asset (including for each element) is stored in the asset database. Other BA components are described in the pending companion submethodologies including M03 for assigning receptors and impact variables to the registered assets.

Product 1.3 for each BA must describe the approach taken to compile each asset register, including reasons for including or excluding assets, and must document any deviations from the approach presented in this submethodology and the reasons why they were considered necessary.


Barrett DJ, Couch CA, Metcalfe DJ, Lytton L, Adhikary DP and Schmidt RK (2013) Methodology for bioregional assessments of the impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining development on water resources. A report prepared for the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development through the Department of the Environment. Department of the Environment, Australia. Viewed 20 November 2014, http://iesc.environment.gov.au/publications/methodology-bioregional-assessments-impacts-coal-seam-gas-and-coal-mining-development-water.

Bureau of Meteorology (2012) Atlas of groundwater dependent ecosystems. Bureau of Meteorology, Canberra. Viewed 16 June, 2014 http://www.bom.gov.au/water/groundwater/gde/.

Curran TJ and Curran SR (2005) Rediscovery of Ooline, Cadellia pentastylis, near Gunnedah: notes on the habitat and ecology of this dry rainforest tree. Cunninghamia 9, 311–316.

Last updated:
13 June 2018