As A Grazier I Rely On Water. Adani’s Latest Plans Put Our Future At Risk

The Guardian*

Scientists are concerned that the Carmichael mine could drain ancient Great Artesian Basin springs. Out in the dry country, this would be a disaster
Waterlillies at the natural springs on Doongmabulla Cattle Station. ‘We’ve been working incredibly hard to stop the damage and restore the Great Artesian Basin to its former glory’ Photograph: Tom Jefferson
It’s dry country up here, west of Emerald in Central Queensland. Free standing water is like liquid gold to us.
Luckily for graziers like me, we have the Great Artesian Basin, our greatest inland water resource, which covers 22% of Australia. Sometimes the Basin expels water from deep underground up to the surface, in the form of natural springs. They are like oases, providing reliable water in times of drought and supporting remarkable ecosystems.
But they’re under threat. More than 81% of Great Artesian Basin springs are now inactive, and I’m the first to acknowledge that a lot of that harm was caused by water extraction by graziers and farmers. In the past, we didn’t understand the impacts that our water extraction was having on the Great Artesian Basin, or how to fix it.
But we do now, and we’ve been working incredibly hard to stop the damage and restore the Great Artesian Basin to its former glory. Graziers across the Basin have been switching from uncontrolled bores and open drains to capped bores and pipes to control flows. In fact, over the last 17 years, more than 750 bores have been upgraded and more than 250 billion litres of water saved per year.
It’s taken a huge concerted effort and it’s had the support of Australian governments who have contributed approximately $250m to make it happen.
But when it comes to water conservation, it seems all are not equal. Just as we started to make real progress in reducing water wastage, the mining boom arrived and blew all our efforts out of the water (if you’ll pardon the pun).
Now, the very same governments that spent so much time and effort working with graziers to cap bores and install pipes, are handing out unlimited quantities of water, including Great Artesian Basin water, to coal and gas companies.
Last week we’ve heard that Adani’s Carmichael coal mine could threaten the magnificent Doongmabulla Springs – a sequence of 160 separate wetlands that stretches across a large area inland of Clermont. Scientists have pointed to new information which raises greater concerns that the Carmichael mine will drain these ancient Great Artesian Basin springs.
The federal department of environment has commissioned additional reports as part of the bioregional assessment for our region. These reports indicate that there is major uncertainty about the source of the Doongmabulla Springs, which leads to risks that they may not survive should the Carmichael mine proceed.
But that information is missing from a key document submitted by Adani to the Queensland government. In Adani’s Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan, which determines how they deal with the risk to these natural springs, they ignore the information from the bioregional assessment.
The Adani Management Plan does not refer to the new research that has found geological faulting in nearby areas or the fact that the true source of the Doongmabulla Springs is still unknown. It does not refer to the new research that the bioregional assessment recommended should be undertaken to identify the source of the springs and assess the true risk of the mine – seismic surveys and a nest of deep bores.
The bioregional assessment was initiated by the commonwealth government several years ago, to quantify the cumulative impacts and risks that multiple new coal and gas projects were having on Queensland’s water resources. Large sums of taxpayers’ funds are being spent on it, and yet it is being ignored by mining companies such as Adani.
The mining process, through long wall and open cut operations, threatens aquifer structures. There is no management plan that could reverse this proposed destruction, confine toxins or reinstate aquifers.
I can’t help but feel there’s one set of rules for the mining industry and a different set for everyone else. It’s not just the double standards that grate on me, it’s the fact that what they are putting at risk is impossible to replace – aquifers of the Great Artesian Basin and ancient natural springs.
And out here in this dry country, that puts our future on the line.
Put simply no water means no business, no food production, no communities, just a toxic wasteland to be suffered by future generations.

*Bruce Currie runs a cattle grazing enterprise with his family in Central Queensland


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