ONGOING research is helping to better understand underground water movements and the implications of coal seam development.
Scientists from Queensland’s independent Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment (OGIA) and the University of Queensland Centre for Coal Seam Gas have been wading through an enormous amount of data being contributed by landholders, government, industry and other research projects to build up a better understanding of groundwater movements.
Early studies suggest that the recharge of underground aquifers may not be as effective as once thought and recharge flow paths may not be what we first thought.
Research indicates that much of the rain recharging the Hutton and Precipice Sandstone aquifers in the north east Surat Basin is discharging into the local low topography of the Dawson River.
That means the water is flowing in a north easterly direction, rather than to the south west into the regional Great Artesian Basin as was thought prior to 2009.
These findings were applied by OGIA in the development of regional groundwater flow models in 2012 and 2016 but many landholders remain unaware of the new findings.
It’s also thought there could be small faults that create a localised connection between the Precipice and Hutton Aquifers in the vicinity of what is known as the Moonie-Goondiwindi fault system.
Researchers stress that this is still a work in progress and it is currently being reviewed by UQ and CSIRO researchers working independently on multiple data sets to either confirm or refute the hypothesis.
Lead researcher at the UQ Centre for Coal Seam Gas, Professor Jim Underschultz said the understanding of the Great Artesian Basin was increasing as researchers analysed the growing amount of data collected from the basin.
“The use of groundwater monitoring data, water production figures, detailed geographic distributions of water levels and hydrocarbon migration ‘fingerprints’ are giving us a level of detail never seen before,” Prof Underschultz said.
The UQ researchers are collaborating closely with CSIRO, OGIA and the CSG Compliance Unit to ensure that research findings are made publicly available as quickly as possible.