Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment (OGIA)
The Queensland Government has a regulatory framework to support the responsible development of the resource industry. The framework includes a role, carried out by the Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment (OGIA), with regard to the assessment and management of impacts from groundwater extraction by the resource industry.
OGIA is an independent entity established under the Water Act 2000. We are housed within the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines, which provides corporate and administrative support.
OGIA’s core function is to undertake evidence-based independent scientific assessment of cumulative groundwater impacts, setting management arrangements and assigning responsibilities to tenure holders for implementation of strategies within cumulative management areas (CMAs).
In addition to this, OGIA also has two other functions:
- provide advice to state government agencies on matters relating to groundwater impacts from resource development
- maintain a database of information relating to groundwater impacts from resource development.
Our role in the management of cumulative impacts from coal seam gas (CSG) development
In an area of concentrated CSG development, the impacts on water pressures caused by individual CSG projects can overlap. In these situations, it is difficult for individual tenure holders to assess cumulative groundwater impacts and to determine individual tenure holder responsibilities for monitoring and make good obligations. To ensure a comprehensive cumulative groundwater assessment is completed and to provide clarity on management responsibilities of the involved tenure holders, such an area can be declared a 'cumulative management area' (CMA) under Queensland legislation.
Where a CMA is established, OGIA is responsible for undertaking assessments, establishing management arrangements and identifying responsible tenure holders to implement specific aspects of those management arrangements. Responsible tenure holders have a statutory obligation to implement management arrangements and OGIA oversees the implementation of those arrangements. These assessments and management arrangements are set out in an Underground Water Impact Report (UWIR) which is revised every three years. Once approved, the report becomes a statutory instrument and provides a basis for ongoing management of groundwater impacts in line with the strategies outlined in the report.
Surat Underground Water Impact Report (Surat UWIR)
So far, there is only one CMA in the state – the Surat CMA, established in 2011 in response to CSG development. The first UWIR for the Surat CMA was prepared in 2012. That report is now superseded by the 2016 Surat UWIR which took effect from 19 September 2016.
The report includes:
- updated maps of predicted water pressure impacts in aquifers
- an updated water monitoring strategy
- an updated management strategy for springs that could be affected by falls in water levels.
The maps of predicted water pressure impacts support the continuation of water supplies for bore owners affected by CSG water extraction. If a bore supply is impaired by CSG water extraction at any time, the CSG operator has a responsibility to find a solution to the problem with the bore owner. However, the framework also provides that in areas where the UWIR predicts that water levels will fall by more than a trigger threshold within three years ('Immediately Affected Areas'), CSG operators are required to enter into agreements as soon as possible with bore owners about arrangements to maintain water supplies. This enables make good arrangements to be in place before any impairment occurs.
OGIA has carried out research activities in collaboration with other bodies and CSG operators to improve understanding of the groundwater flow system. The regional groundwater flow model is being revised to incorporate the new knowledge.
Expansions of OGIA’s role in the mining sector
OGIA’s functions in relation to groundwater impact assessment and management from petroleum and gas (P&G) development have been in place since 2011. Considering the similarities between P&G and mining operations, the legislation has now been amended to provide a more consistent approach to managing underground water impacts from both mining and P&G development – collectively referred to as the resource development.
The changes to legislation to include mining leases and mineral development licences in the underground water management framework commenced on 6 December 2016. As a result, OGIA’s existing role in the P&G sector has now expanded to include the relevant mining development.
OGIA is entirely funded through an annual industry levy under Section 479 of the Water Act. The majority of the levy is paid by petroleum and gas tenure holders within the Surat CMA. A small portion is also recovered from tenure holders outside of the CMA, where OGIA has responsibilities relating to the storage of data, undertaking monitoring activities and the provision of technical advice to the Queensland Government.