Out of sight, out of mind: groundwater in peril

Out of sight, out of mind: groundwater in peril August 19, 2012, The Sydney Morning Herald
The director of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, Craig Simmons, said much more was needed to ”waterproof the nation” despite hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on trying to protect the nation’s groundwater resources as part of the National Water Initiative, which emerged from reforms agreed by the Council of Australian Governments. A recent UNESCO report found the world’s groundwater reserves were rapidly being depleted. The report, Groundwater and Global Change: Trends, Opportunities and Challenges, identified Australia’s Great Artesian Basin, which underlies 22 per cent of the country, as a groundwater source that had suffered significant decline because of the number of bores and wells being sunk. … Contamination caused by chemicals used in mining and coal seam gas extraction also needed to be addressed, he said. … But a report into the Namoi water catchment in the state’s north-west by the independent consultants Schlumberger Water Services – which based its findings on the details of proposed coalmines and gasfields – said there would be some continuing risks of damage to the aquifers that maintained the rich soil of the Liverpool Plains. The president of NSW Farmers, Fiona Simson, said the state’s water authority would not have the power to prevent developments that risk damaging water resources under rules proposed by the NSW government. She said: “The study confirms our view that a robust aquifer interference policy is essential if agricultural land and water sources are to be protected from damage caused by mining and CSG [coal seam gas] activities.”

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