Although I’m a Queenslander, I’m writing this post from Mendocino County, California. The United States is my other home.
Anyone who’s read anything about Californian history, or even seen the classic movie Chinatown, would know how important water, rights to water and its distribution have been to the political and social and agricultural stories of this great state.
Some of these stories are movingly related in Joan Didion’s Where I Was From.
Queensland is quite comparable – often arid plains flood without much warning, irrigation rights are contested, and good farmland verges on the edge of being dust country.
Coal Seam Gas exploration and extraction is controversial (among other reasons) because of its potential impact on aquifers, and because of the large amounts of water used in the process, and the safety and disposal of waste water.
We all know how much the Murray-Darling basin means, and what a stoush there has been about the national emergency that is its degradation. Some of the major tributaries of the Darling, for instance the Condamine, flow through coal and CSG country.
In estimating and mitigating the impact on rivers and waterways, a problem often arises because there is insufficient or dated data for a baseline assessment of the health of these same rivers and creeks.
Queensland Country Life this week reports on a State Government partnership with mining companies to sponsor collection of such data in the Fitzroy Basin.
The Fitzroy Partnership for River Health is to be welcomed.
But the rub lies herein:
Operating and planned coal seam gas fields also cover the basin.
With the industry expanding at a rate of knots, concerns exist that the scientific data on which risk management is predicated is often collected only after the fact.
Joan Didion once wrote:
California is a place in which a boom mentality and a sense of Chekhovian loss meet in uneasy suspension; in which the mind is troubled by some buried but ineradicable suspicion that things better work here, because here, beneath the immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent.
Perhaps the same could be said of Queensland.
Read more about Coal Seam Gas and risk management here.