No single solution for water disposal

AN analysis of what to do with produced water from coal seam gas extraction in the valley has determined no single solution to the issue of disposal.

Gloucester Shire’s water scientist Kate Johnson has completed her produced water evaluation study, the first of four projects in the Gloucester Water Study project which is a joint initiative of council and AGL.

Ms Johnson said the report provided an assessment of the economic, environmental and social benefits and impacts associated with produced water from coal seam gas, but did not provide any recommendations.

Gloucester Shire water scientist Kate Johnson.

Gloucester Shire water scientist Kate Johnson.

It identifies preferred and non-preferred options for produced water in Gloucester, based on predicted water volumes and quality from stage one of AGL’s Gloucester Gas Project.

The report takes into consideration the geology, soil type, climate and existing industries in Gloucester to identify potentially feasible reuse options.

Among the options the report examines are irrigation of crops, use at a poultry farm, water for parks and gardens, industrial uses, drinking water, deep sea disposal and discharge back into the surrounding environment.

“The report determined that reusing the water at a poultry farm would not be feasible from an economic sense because of the treatment processes it would have to go through,” Ms Johnson said.

“Industrial uses would be inhibitive because there are very few opportunities in Gloucester.

“The report identifies that the irrigation of parks and gardens and crops and fodder could be feasible economically, but there would be environmental and social considerations that need to be well thought-out.

“Using produced water for drinking was also something we looked at which is happening in Queensland, but in Gloucester it’s likely to be socially inhibitive.”

Discharging produced water back into the surrounding environment has also been included in the report but with serious social and environmental factors to consider, it is unlikely such a scenario would be adopted.

“We even considered deep sea disposal through construction of a pipeline to the coast but obviously that was economically unviable,” Ms Johnson said.

“There is ultimately no one solution for disposal of produced water from coal seam gas extraction. What this report shows us is that there can never be just one thing, it has to be a combination of solutions.”

It is expected AGL will consider the report when preparing its produced water management plan which is part of their consent conditions for stage one of the Gloucester Gas Project.

“In depth examination of each reuse and disposal option is required in AGL’s plan and ultimately that decision rests with the company,” Ms Johnson said. 

Copies of the study can be found at council’s website or at council’s administration building. 

The authors will be presenting their findings and answering questions from the community at a forum to be held in Gloucester on June 18 at the council chambers.