9 Dec 2019
The Final Report from the Independent Review of the Impacts of the Bottled Water Industry on the Groundwater Resources in the Northern Rivers region of NSW has been released.
The Review identified seven operators in the Northern Rivers region with allocations of 240.5 ML/year who are actively extracting for water bottling purposes. This represents 0.55 per cent of water licences and basic landholder rights, and 0.008 per cent of the estimated total annual aquifer recharge in the four relevant groundwater sources.
Four further proposals identified by the Review, if approved, would amount to an additional 168ML/year. This represents a further 0.38 per cent of water licences and basic landholder rights, and 0.006 per cent of total annual aquifer recharge.
Under the Terms of Reference, the Review was asked to examine the bottled water industry’s entitlements and extractions in the context of total water access rights and extraction limits established in the relevant Water Sharing Plan.
Water available for extraction is a portion of the estimated recharge value for each groundwater source.
In general, it was found that the Water Sharing Plan incorporates a reasonable level of conservatism for extraction limits based on the risks identified.
Based on the review of available information, there is no measured evidence that current bottled water extractions have impacts on other properties’ bores, surface water or groundwater-dependent ecosystems in the Northern Rivers region. This is at least partly due to the relatively low current levels of extractions, hydrogeological conditions and lack of monitoring detecting these impacts.
On a regional scale, additional monitoring in strategic locations with a perceived risk would help inform gaps in knowledge and provide a path towards better conceptual understanding of aquifer flows.
Local scale monitoring during extraction operations can also assist with better understanding of local hydrology, as well as extractive impacts and consequences. This could support adaptive management approaches, for example additional reporting or cease-to-pump rules related to observed groundwater pressures. Recent NSW Government changes to metering requirements will assist.
An assessment of hydrological reports submitted to support development applications indicates both industry and decision makers would benefit from greater guidance and standardisation of requirements for hydrological reports.
NSW Deputy Chief Scientist & Engineer Dr Chris Armstrong will undertake community forums in early 2020 to discuss the findings from the Review.
A copy of the Final Report can be found here.
Bruce Ritchie | Office of the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer | 0429 412 426