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Far West gas fields - where is the water coming from?

The NSW Government should protect water supplies, farmland, communities and wildlife in the Far West by immediately ruling out the development of an industrial gas field in the region, according to the NSW Nature Conservation Council.

The government this year resurrected plans to let big fossil fuel companies drill gas wells across millions of hectares of grazing land stretching from Tibooburra in the north to Hillston in the south. [1]

Farmers have reacted angrily to the proposal and the failure of the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment to consult adequately. [2]

“The development of a gas mining industry in the Far West will waste millions of litres of water this region just can’t spare,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.

“Gas mining in the west will require fracking, a process that uses vast amounts of water and chemicals to crack the rock to make the gas flow.

“The fossil fuel industry’s own figures show fracking requires about 15 million litres on average for each well, which is enough to fill six Olympic-sized swimming pools. [3]

“If this proposal goes ahead, there could be several hundred wells dotted across the Far West requiring possibly billions of litres of precious water.

“We proudly stand with local farmers and Traditional Owners who utterly oppose fracking on their land.

“It is a cruel irony that gas mining is being contemplated in a region that is already suffering the effects of climate change.

“Burning the gas will add CO2 to the atmosphere when the rest of the world is urgently trying to eliminate its CO2 emissions.”

Mr Gambian said an industrial gasfield would not only be bad for the climate, it would have significant on-the-ground impacts.

“Industrial gas fields are criss-crossed with roads that are bulldozed to give installation and maintenance crews access,” he said.

“In major gas fields, hundreds of kilometres of roads cut through wildlife habitat and grazing land and trigger erosion.

“Habitat fragmentation is a key threat endangering the survival of many unique rangeland species, including the plains wanderer.”

The gas field exploration areas announced by the government cover the Broken Hill Complex and Murray Darling Depression bioregions.

The Broken Hill Complex bioregion is home to 51 vulnerable species, 30 endangered species, one critically endangered species, one endangered population and one endangered ecological community. [4]

The Murray Darling Depression bioregion is home to 67 vulnerable species, 39 endangered species, 6 critically endangered species, 2 endangered populations and 5 endangered ecological communities.

References
[1] There are two exploration areas: one between Wilcannia, Cobar, Ivanhoe and Hillston in geological formations called the Neckarboo and Yathong-Ivanhoe troughs; the other is between Broken Hill, Wilcannia and Tibooburra in geological formations call the Bancannia and Pondie Range troughs. 
[2] Upset at snub in submission time for Far West gas tilt, The Land, 3/3/21
[3] How much water does hydraulic fracturing use?, American Petroleum Institute. “The average fracking job uses roughly 4 million gallons of water per well …” 4 million gallons is 15 million litres.)
[4] NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Habitat area search Search by region | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

 

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