The Productivity Commission warns against special water rights for resource companies in its report on national water reform, leading to calls for action from the Queensland Government to rein in statutory rights for coal and gas projects to unlimited groundwater.
The report raises concerns about resource companies being exempt from water licensing frameworks that have been established to implement the National Water Initiative, which aims to cap water consumption.
“The Palaszczuk Government has given mining and gas companies the right to free, unlimited groundwater extraction as part of resource operations,” said Carmel Flint, spokesperson for Lock the Gate Alliance.
“This is reckless in the extreme, especially in drought-prone Central Queensland, and is a massive double standard when farmers are subject to a transparent licensing regime.
“The Productivity Commission has found that these special exemptions for mining and gas projects contradict the National Water Initiative and called for them to be scrapped.
“The coal seam gas industry in the Surat Basin alone is already extracting almost 65,000 million litres of groundwater a year for free, and causing farm water bores to drop dramatically.
“Now the coal mining industry has also been given the same rights to exploit groundwater without limits, and the Adani mine was granted unlimited groundwater take without any public objection rights.
“The Productivity Commission report must trigger urgent action from the Queensland Government - they need to rein in the rampant water use of the resource industry and apply the strictest licensing regime and limits on take” she said.
The report found that “In some cases, alternative water rights arrangements for extractive industries exist outside the water entitlements and planning frameworks, raising concerns about risks to the supply to other water users and the environment”.
It recommended that “Governments should remove entitlement exemptions for extractive industries (unless there is a compelling reason otherwise), so that they are issued entitlements under the framework applying to other consumptive users”.
The Productivity Commission’s Water Reform Overview: