Thursday, 17 November 2011

Friends of the Earth: Decreasing water for the environment in the Murray Darling Basin


NSW Government Seeks Increased Groundwater Extraction For Miners
Monday, 14 November 2011

document obtained under Freedom of Information by Friends of the Earth reveals that the NSW Government pushed the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to increase limits on groundwater extraction to supply water for the mining industry.

The information is contained in a letter from the Commissioner of the NSW Office of Water, David Harriss, to the Chair of the Murray Darling Basin Authority, Craig Knowles, on the 28th July 2011.

In asking the MDBA to increase groundwater extraction limits in six aquifers by a total of 560GL above what was proposed in the Guide to the Plan, Mr Harriss states that:

'These groundwater systems are brackish, undeveloped and not connected to surface water, and represent the only potential source of water for future mining requirements in these areas'. 
'The revised volumes are considered sufficient to meet likely demands for the mining industry for the period of the Basin Plan (2012 to 2022) while ensuring that extractions remain well within sustainable limits'.

Briefing documents provided to environment groups by the MDBA last month show the NSW efforts were successful, with a radical increase in groundwater extraction proposed by the MDBA, more than doubling the current cap from 1787 gigalitres (GL) to 4213 GL basin-wide.
"The NSW Government has been caught red-handed secretly paving the way for miners to gain access to large quantities of our groundwater' said Jonathan La Nauze, Friends of the Earth Murray-Darling Campaigner. 
"Barry O'Farrell promised a new approach to balancing the interests of farming, environment and mining on taking office, but it has taken only 6 months for that rhetoric to be stripped away. 
"It is very disappointing to see the MDBA has capitulated to NSW, allowing groundwater extraction limits to be driven by the demands of the mining industry rather than the needs of the environment 
"These particular groundwater systems are very poorly understood and we simply do not know enough about them to be massively increasing water extraction without risking major damage 
"The Australian Water Resources Assessment released on Monday shows that many aquifers in the Murray-Darling Basin are already in decline.  
"The Basin Authority is tasked with returning a drastically over-allocated Murray-Darling Basin to health but they will have failed in that task if they go ahead with NSW plans to increase groundwater extraction limits 
"This is a dangerous grab for our water resources on behalf of big mining companies. We are calling for the Chair of the Authority to urgently step in and rule out any increases in groundwater until scientific understanding of our precious underground aquifers is improved.

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