Regional hydrogeological characterisation of four coal basins in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria

Project completed 2015

Background

View looking down towards a lake filled with blue-green water in foreground, partly surrounded by dark green vegetation interspersed with an area of beach sand. The ocean occurs in the background.

Wabby Lake on Stradbroke Island,
Maryborough Basin, Queensland.
(photo by Pauline English)

The increase in coal mining and coal seam gas (CSG) developments across many parts of eastern Australia since the early 2000s led to widespread community concerns about the potential impacts of these activities on water resources. Comprehensive baseline knowledge of the regional hydrogeology and groundwater resources of Australia's coal-bearing geological basins is critical for understanding potential impacts on water resources and water-related assets that may be caused by CSG or coal mining developments.

Geoscience Australia completed a desktop study to improve scientific understanding of the hydrogeology and groundwater resources of four priority coal-bearing basins. The geological basins that were the focus of this study were not part of the Australian Government's Bioregional Assessment Program. The basins of interest for this project were the:

  1. Laura Basin, Queensland
  2. Maryborough Basin, Queensland
  3. Otway Basin, Victoria and South Australia
  4. St Vincent Basin, South Australia.

This study collated, analysed and interpreted existing geological, hydrogeological, hydrological, s topographic, geophysical and remotely sensed datasets held by Geoscience Australia and other data custodians, including state government agencies in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria, and various academic institutions.

This project was commissioned by the (then) Department of the Environment. It was one of several projects that addressed research priorities identified by the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC).

Objective

This project developed an improved knowledge base relating to the hydrogeological and groundwater resource characteristics of four coal-bearing geological basins of national strategic interest that were not the subject of  the Bioregional Assessment Program.

The information, data, analysis and outputs under this project assisted the IESC in providing rigorous and robust scientific advice to Australian and state government ministers about the impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining developments on assets that rely on regional water resources.

A utility vehicle parked in a grassy paddock, with farm homestead in background. Various pieces of groundwater sampling equipment such as bottles, buckets, cases and a large blue hose spool occur in the tray of the utility, and nearby. The vehicle is parked near a cylindrical blue steel pipe that rises from the ground about 1.5 metres high. A triangular metal frame is set-up over the blue steel pipe, and hoses run from the blue spool on the utlity tray into the top of the blue pipe.

Sampling groundwater in Victoria's
Western District, Otway Basin.
(photo by Sarah Marshall).

Outcomes

The main project outcomes were that the IESC:

  1. Were better informed about water resources and groundwater systems in these four coal basins, including recognising the most important data and knowledge gaps that may limit the extent of current understanding
  2. Can make sound and informed recommendations for future investments (where appropriate) that will address the most critical data and knowledge gaps in these basins.

Additionally, the technical reports provide state government agencies, natural resource managers, local councils and other interested community members with access to a comprehensive and informative source of data and information about the geology, hydrogeology and groundwater systems of each basin.

Outputs

The following project outputs are available for download:

Final technical reports:

Final summary report: