Despite the risks to tourism, pastoralists, and Territory communities, the government is forging ahead with its plan to allocate billions of litres of water from the Cambrian Limestone Aquifer by declaring water allocation plan in the Beetaloo Basin to comply with gas industry timelines.
This aquifer keeps the Roper River flowing all year round. Its stunning hot springs, world class fishing, and wetlands teeming with life are a unique and iconic part of the Northern Territory.
The release of the draft Water Allocation Plan for the Beetaloo Basin is a flawed and rushed process that threatens Northern Territory water resources, including the iconic Roper River and Mataranka Springs.
The amount of water the plan estimates can be extracted “sustainably” (262 billion litres per annum) is the biggest water allocation ever made in the Northern Territory.
The water allocation plan has not been developed by water advisory committees in accordance with standard Northern Territory Government practice, and the National Water Initiative. It has also been prepared before vital baseline studies recommended by the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing have been completed.
Water allocation plans should be informed by the best available science, comply with the National Water Initiative, and be subject to proper public scrutiny – this plan does not implement these things.
Quotes from Dr Kirsty Howey, Environment Centre NT Director
“The question is whether the government has done its job and allocated water sustainably. We don't think that's happened.
“The method used to calculate the amount of water that can be extracted in this plan is lacking any clear scientific basis.
“It is based on recharge figures with a high degree of uncertainty and risks taking out much more water than goes back in to the system. By definition, that is unsustainable.
“Not only that, the plan says nothing at all about how the Roper River, Mataranka Hot Springs and sacred sites to which the aquifer supplies water will be protected. This is completely unacceptable given Territorians’ longstanding concern about the risks to these values by fracking.
“It’s a major regression in water planning in the Northern Territory.
“The Minister should listen to the science and the community and defer the finalisation of these plans until water advisory committees have been appointed. Rushing this plan through could deplete our precious water and have grave consequences for all Territorians and our iconic rivers, springs and waterways.”
Quotes from Des Barritt, Little Roper Stock Camp
“Mataranka’s the first patch of green you see coming up the highway. If there aren’t any hot springs, if there aren’t any palms, no one is going to stop in Mataranka. That’s it for tourism.”
Quotes from Sam Phelan, Protect Big Rivers
“This is an incomprehensible and dangerous plan that risks our Top End rivers and aquifers, including the Daly and Roper systems.”
“The figures from which the estimated sustainable yield have been calculated appear to have been plucked from thin air.”
“A 2019 Northern Territory Government report indicated that the recharge rate of the Georgina Basin could be as low as 71 billion litres per year. However, the plan gives a figure over 8 times greater than that. It’s insane.
“We need to remember that this part of the Cambrian Limestone aquifer only recharges episodically, meaning that a very cautious approach needs to be taken.
“Instead, we see a high risk approach that endangers our precious Big Rivers region. Taking the amounts of water from the system that this plan proposes could be disastrous for Mataranka Springs and the Roper River, as well as the Flora and Daly systems.
“The Minister needs to stop and listen to the community – these plans need to be stopped now before it’s too late.”
Georgina Basin Water Balance
Georgina Basin Groundwater Assessment