Interim Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam gas and Coal Mining

Ecosystems and water: environmental tolerances, responses and mitigation

Aquatic ecosystems and water-dependent terrestrial systems (such as flood plain vegetation) can be highly dependent on the timing, quantity and quality of water in streams and groundwater.

Changes in water flows can also affect water temperature and salinity, and the connectivity of stream habitats. Serious, often unintended, damage can be done to these ecosystems, unless the relationships between the health of these ecosystems and water flow and quality are understood.

As well as impacts associated with changes in water flows, this theme includes risks associated with the storage and disposal of saline groundwater, which can be brought to the surface as co-produced water.

Projects commissioned to date include:

Project title Project description
Modelling water-related ecological responses to coal seam gas extraction and coal mining The models developed by this project will generate more explicit understanding and predictive capacity of the pathways of ecological responses to hydrological changes due to coal seam gas and coal mining developments. This project is the foundation for the subsequent Ecology Theme projects.
Background review -
co-produced water - risks to aquatic ecosystems

This review captures the state of knowledge on issues associated with the quantity, quality, timing and potential risks to aquatic ecosystems from co-produced water, including:

  • impacts of changed surface water flow regimes and quality due to discharge of treated co-produced water
  • existing knowledge, including documentation on environmental impact assessments
  • examples of releasing co-produced water into natural flow regimes with a high seasonal variability
  • risk management frameworks and their applicability to coal seam gas and coal mining activities
  • industry practice in managing co-produced water.
  • Background review: Co-produced water - risks to aquatic ecosystems (PDF - 2.5 MB) |  (Word - 7.8 MB)
Great Artesian Basin Springs Survey Phase 1 Ecological and hydrogeological survey of outcrop (recharge), discharge, and watercourse springs that could be impacted by development in the Surat and Bowen Basins. This includes the Springsure, Bourke, Eulo and Bogan River spring supergroups.
Peat swamps - ecology monitoring This project will develop a more detailed understanding of the surface and groundwater hydrology and geological characteristics of peat swamps, their sensitivity to changes in surface and groundwater flows and water quality conditions. It will also identify appropriate monitoring and reporting regimes (including trigger values for management action) that may be used to monitor and assess the impacts of longwall coal mining on the threatened ecological community temperate highland peat swamps on sandstone.
Peat swamps - engineering subsidence This project will develop tools, guidance, and/or techniques that may be used to better predict subsidence related impacts, optimise mine design and layout, and establish appropriate buffer distances. This information will help minimise subsidence-related impacts of longwall coal mining on the threatened ecological community temperate highland peat swamps on sandstone.
Peat swamps - remediation This project will identify and evaluate potential mitigation and remediation techniques for the ongoing successful management of the peats swamp region.