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

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 during the past decade has 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 any future CSG or coal mining developments.

Geoscience Australia has undertaken a desktop study to better understand the hydrogeology and groundwater resources of four priority coal-bearing basins. The geological basins that were the focus of this study are not initially part of the Australian Government's Bioregional Assessment Programme. The basins of interest for this project are the:

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

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

This project was commissioned by the Department of the Environment. It is one of a number of projects being undertaken to directly address research priorities identified by the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC).

Objectives

The main objective of this project was to:

  • develop an improved knowledge base relating to the hydrogeological and groundwater resource characteristics of four coal-bearing geological basins that are of national strategic interest but are not the subject of initial research being conducted for the Bioregional Assessment Programme.

The information, data, analysis and outputs under this project may be used to assist the IESC in the provision of rigorous and robust scientific advice to 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 are that the IESC:

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

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

Outputs

The following reports are available for download:

Final technical reports:

Final summary reports: