Law Reform · Healthy Communities

Water Act reforms

28 July, 2014

EDO Qld examines consultation regulatory impact statement (RIS) detailing proposed changes to the Queensland Water Act 2000, which will affect the community, business and government.

The Water Act 2000 is the governing piece of legislation which controls the way in which water is allocated and managed in Queensland.

The proposed changes to the Queensland Water Act should be of concern to businesses, landholders and all those concerned with the ecological sustainable management of our water resources. Consistent with recent ‘red-tape reduction’ initiatives, the amendments proposed seek to reduce public consultation rights, weaken assessment processes and regulation of large-scale water users, and reduce the strength and substance of regional water plans.

The move to give a statutory right to mining companies to unlimited use of water without any requirement for licences or assessment is deeply concerning, particularly in light of the existing stresses on our groundwater resources and the lack of understanding around our existing impacts on these resources. It is important that all those concerned with the sustainable management of water use take this opportunity today to have their say prior to the policy behind future amendments to the Water Act is finalised.

Background

These changes form part of the current Queensland Government’s red-tape reduction policy, continuing  their move to make development easier for proponents, while shifting the cost of this development to the environment and those others dependent on our natural resources.

The key points of concern around these proposed amendments include:

  • Weakened assessment of large scale water users.
  • Water users being given too much power to assess and regulate their own water use.
  • Proposed changes to the purpose likely to remove or greatly reduce the focus of the Act on ‘sustainable’ water management.
  • Reductions in regulation of low risk projects which may lead to cumulative high risk impacts.
  • Statutory rights for mining and coal resource projects to take associated groundwater, without a maximum volume, meaning they will no longer require assessment under the Water Act.
  • Moves to greatly increase access to the Great Artesian Basin water supplies, which are not yet sufficiently understood.

A recent ABC article (published 24 July 2014) demonstrates the great danger to landholders and our water bodies where inadequate assessment studies, monitoring and enforcement is undertaken of resource users. In many cases these proposed amendments will give large-scale water users the responsibility to practically self-regulate their water use, while also allowing mining and coal proponents to take associated water with no requirement for separate assessment and potentially no cap on their water usage.

Water is too precious for the Government to not adequately regulate and monitor usage.

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) gives a strong legal voice to the environment when needed most.