Groundwater review - EDO NSW

Groundwater mining review

The Minister for Regional Water Niall Blair has requested an independent review into the impacts of the bottled water industry on groundwater sources in the Northern Rivers.

The NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer will provide advice on sustainable groundwater extraction limits in the region, as well as advice on whether the current or proposed groundwater monitoring bores are sufficient.

Local councils have been advised to suspend approving any new applications for water mining until the report is complete in mid-2019.

Since 2017, EDO NSW has been providing advice to clients in the Tweed valley who have concerns about the way in which water bottling developments are assessed, approved and enforced.

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Photo: Diego Cervo/iStock

Water bottling – the extraction, processing and bottling of groundwater for sale - is controversial, as it can compete with other water users and have adverse impacts on groundwater-dependent ecosystems. These operations also generate considerable plastic waste and the water transport tankers can impact the amenity and safety of people living in rural areas.

With bottling looking set to expand in the Tweed valley, our Legal Outreach team conducted a workshop on water regulation and enforcement in the Tweed Valley to help the community understand and participate in the regulation of water bottling operations. We also drafted several letters to the local council on the approval process for bottling facilities in order to clarify the legal standards in the local environmental plan and the scientific studies needed to support a development application for a facility.  

With our assistance, our client produced a detailed report alleging ongoing and systemic breaches of development consent conditions for four local water bottling facilities and setting out the range of enforcement options available to Council. We then met with Council and briefed Councillors on their powers and responsibilities as the regulator under law. We were able to work constructively with Council to ensure the full range of investigation and enforcement options were understood and since then Council has taken decisive steps to ensure water bottling operations in the Tweed are complying with the law.

The Chief Scientist & Engineer is expected to provide his initial report by early February 2019, with a final report to be published in mid-2019.