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Senator Waters questions the Department of Environment’s Office of Water Science

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Larissa Waters 27 May 2015

Senator WATERS: My understanding is that the scope of that national assessment is limited to surface water and shallow groundwater but not deep aquafers. I perhaps got the optimistic and hopeful impression last time that the work had begun with the shallow aquafers but perhaps might progress to look at deep aquafers in future. Is that correct or is that just wishful thinking on my behalf?

Ms Milnes: Yes. The focus of this work is on the impacts at the surface, including shallow groundwater. We indicated last time that the issues we were looking at included how you might assess the impacts on the deep groundwater.

Senator WATERS: Is there an intention to then assess those impacts after working out how you might do so?

Ms Milnes: That is still an issue that we are considering. Some of the work in the current assessment that is being undertaken would inform that work.

Senator WATERS: So the decision on whether to look further into the impacts on deep aquafers will be informed by what you find about the impacts on shallow acquires and surface water?

Ms Milnes: That is correct.

Senator WATERS: Is there any intention to expand that chemicals assessment to cover shale and tight gas, given the hydraulic fracturing process is similar, irrespective of the gas that is being mined?

Ms Milnes: The focus of the work at this stage is on coal seam gas.

Senator WATERS: Is there an intention to expand that, that you are aware of as yet?

Ms Milnes: There is no intention to expand that.

Senator WATERS: Is there any work being done on shale and tight gas under any of those research projects or bodies that we canvassed earlier?

Ms Milnes: The focus of the work is around coal seam gas.

Senator WATERS: Because of the constraints of the water trigger?

Ms Milnes: It is not so much to do with the water trigger, but that is the mandate of the independent expert scientific committee and the mandate of the funding, if you like.

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