Queensland groundwater management framework
Protecting groundwater (or underground water) resources and having access to good quality groundwater is vital for Queensland's landholders and local communities.
Queensland has two separate frameworks for management of groundwater under the Water Act 2000:
- Access to groundwater for irrigation, drinking water and urban water supply. This usually requires authorisation such as a water allocation, water licence or permit under a relevant water plan .
- Management of groundwater impacts resulting from the extraction of groundwater by resource tenure holders.
The extraction of groundwater by resource tenure holders is necessary for extraction of resources. This incidentally extracted groundwater is known as associated water because it is an associated by-product of the process.
Resource tenure holders have a right to take associated water. This right is designed to provide for safe operating conditions to extract a resource like coal, or to achieve necessary pressure to extract petroleum and gas. The right comes with a number of responsibilities for tenure holders, including the need to assess and monitor the impact of their operations on the water supply from private water bores and to make good any impairments. Assessment and management of impacts on natural springs and other environmental values is also required.
OGIA’s role in groundwater management
The Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment (OGIA) is an independent office that assesses and develops strategies for managing the impacts on groundwater from resource development in Queensland, which includes coal seam gas (CSG), conventional oil and gas, and mining.
OGIA is not a regulator. Its work is primarily focused on scientific investigations, modelling and monitoring relating to groundwater impacts and supporting an adaptive management framework for managing the impacts in the cumulative management areas (CMAs) in Queensland.
CMAs are declared where impacts from resource development may overlap. Queensland has one CMA – The Surat CMA.
OGIA’s core functions
OGIA is established under chapter 3A of the Water Act 2000. Its core functions are to:
- undertake independent scientific assessment of cumulative groundwater impacts from resource development within CMAs
- set strategies for managing those impacts
- assign statutory responsibilities to tenure holders for the implementation of management strategies within CMAs
- prepare an Underground Water Impact Report (UWIR) every three years for a CMA
- prepare an annual report to provide an update on changes that would impact the predictions reported in the UWIR and on the implementation of management strategies specified in the UWIR.
Some other functions are to:
- provide advice, when requested, to the Department of Environment and Science on matters relating to groundwater impacts from resource development
- maintain a database of information.
Funding and administrative arrangements
OGIA is established as an independent office under chapter 3A of the Water Act 2000. To maintain its independence from the Department of Environment and Science, the administrator of Chapter 3 of the Water Act, OGIA is housed within the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water to provide OGIA corporate and administrative support.
OGIA is funded through an annual industry levy. This means that the costs of groundwater impact assessment and management associated with tenure holders’ underground water rights are met by tenure holders, rather than by the taxpayer. The levy is primarily based on tenure footprint. The majority of the levy is paid by coal seam gas operators within the Surat CMA.
How OGIA operates
OGIA is committed to needs-based and fit-for-purpose applied science that links directly to the management of groundwater resources.
OGIA maintains ongoing engagement with stakeholders to share scientific findings and seek feedback on matters of concern. The stakeholders are landholders, community groups, peak bodies, state and federal regulatory agencies, research organisations and the resources industry.
OGIA has a team of nationally and internationally respected hydrogeologists, modellers, geologists, reservoir engineers, geomechanical scientists and eco-hydrologists who have considerable hands-on experience in regional groundwater assessment and management.
Contractual arrangements with other experts on groundwater assessment and modelling are used for specialist matters. OGIA also undertakes research independently and in collaboration with other research bodies and resource operators to improve the understanding of groundwater flow systems.
Roles of other government agencies in groundwater management
OGIA is just one of a number of organisations that play important and complementary roles in assessing and managing the impacts of groundwater extraction from resource development in Queensland.
The Department of Environment and Science (DES) is responsible for administering Chapter 3 of the Water Act 2000 which includes declaration of CMAs, approval of the UWIR prepared by OGIA and regulatory compliance on implementation of the obligations identified in the UWIR. DES is also responsible for approval of project-specific UWIRs prepared by individual tenure holders outside the CMA.
Learn more about the regulatory framework for underground water management on the DES website.
The GasFields Commission Queensland works to improve sustainability and coexistence between rural landholders, regional communities and the onshore gas industry in Queensland.
Its website has a range of publications, videos, reports, fact sheets and useful links to information and support. Learn more about the functions of the GasFields Commission Queensland and resources available.
The Department of Resources manages the sustainable development of mineral and energy resources.
Learn more about mining and exploration, and data and mapping.
The Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water (DRDMW) is the State’s water regulator and is responsible for management of non-associated groundwater, which includes planning and authorising access to groundwater. It provides corporate and administrative support to OGIA.
Learn more about access to groundwater.
Last updated: 23 May 2023