NSW Irrigators' Council, Namoi Water and Cotton Australia have released a joint report from a recent tour of coal seam gas (CSG) operations in Colorado, USA which investigated how the industry impacted irrigators.
Irrigators’ Council chief executive Andrew Gregson said the tour revealed that baseline data from monitoring the effects of CSG on the environment is an “absolute requirement”.
“Soil and water testing at a gas site, around the gas site and downstream of it are vital," Mr Gregson said.
“That comprehensive testing must be carried out before gas operations commence and continue for the life of the operation and well after.”
Sahil Prasad from Cotton Australia said that impacts of CSG in Colorado may be manageable but the impacts of failure could be catastrophic.
Santos manager of stakeholder relations Deena McMullen also participated in the tour.
She said the tour emphasised the importance of baseline data in building community trust and said Santos was committed to baseline monitoring for its Australian operations.
“It takes time to build relationships and baseline data is the big thing in building trust,” she said.
Santos has established water monitoring programs around its operations in Queensland and exploration in the Gunnedah basin
Cotton Australia's Sahil Prasad said his concerns included the issue of produced water, which is expressed when gas is extracted from a coal seam.
"The impacts of something going wrong will be deep and long lasting. We need to make sure Australia is well protected with a strict management regime," he said.
"Colorado seems to be managing well in terms of drilling regulations, but we were unconvinced on their disposal techniques for produced water.”
Jon-Maree Baker, executive officer with Namoi Water, said CSG posed a “significant danger” to irrigated agriculture and the environment.
“If CSG is to proceed in NSW, we need to recognise the severity of the risk associated with produced water and ensure rigorous testing and management.”
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.