Don't risk Great Artesian Basin for carbon sink

Published: 1st March 2024

Queensland councils are calling on the State Government to halt plans to pump carbon into the underground Great Artesian Basin, warning of fears it could contaminate domestic water and other supplies.

Mayors from across Queensland have warned not enough is known about the impacts of carbon capture and potential knock-on disturbance and contamination of the Great Artesian Basin is too great a risk for the communities, towns and industries that rely on it.

Councils at the most recent Local Government Association of Queensland annual conference voted unanimously to call on the State Government not to approve carbon capture and storage technology on the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) and ask the State and Federal governments to work together to protect what is the only reliable source of fresh water for much of inland Australia.

One current proposal from the Carbon Transport and Storage Corporation (CTSCo) would see carbon dioxide captured from Milmerran Power Station injected into the Great Artesian Basin near Moonie.

“Due to a significant proportion of Queensland relying on water resources from the Great Artesian Basin, communities have concerns regarding the proposed project, particularly for those communities which rely on the GAB for potable water supply,” LGAQ chief executive officer Alison Smith said.

“As such, councils want the Federal and State Government to adopt a precautionary approach and not allow carbon capture and storage projects to be approved in the Great Artesian Basin.

“This is of particular importance as several regional council organisations use GAB bores for their potable water source.”

Mayors from across regional Queensland have warned carbon capture and storage represents too big a risk to communities and the water they rely on.

Murweh Shire Mayor Shaun (Zoro) Radnedge said the community could not risk the Great Artesian Basin.

“We just have come from 10 long years of drought, we definitely know the value of the GAB,” Mayor Radnedge said.

“If this project was proposed for underneath the Great Barrier Reef would we be considering this?”

Etheridge Shire Mayor Barry Hughes said the Great Artesian Basin should not be tampered with.

“The Great Artesian Basin is an iconic treasure. All Australians would understand the contribution it brings to outback Australia,” Mayor Hughes said.

“Under no circumstances should it be compromised in any way.

“It is the support mechanism of the grazing industry, of the tourism industry, it is an integral part of sustaining regional and rural communities.

“To have any idea of putting carbon back into the Great Artesian Basin is non-negotiable.

“Water sustains just about every aspect of life in the bush and the communities that depend on this, the economic situation revolves around water.

“At no point in time should any consideration be given to compromising the role the Great Artesian Basin plays in providing life-giving entity right across outback Australia.

“If you look on the map, the Great Artesian Basin encompasses a fair chunk of central Australia.

“Where I live, in the Etheridge Shire, we are part of the feeder system to the Great Artesian Basin.

“Without that feeder system complementing the Great Artesian Basin, we’re in deep strife.

“Both State and Federal governments need to be well and truly aware of the push for having other entities tamper with the Great Artesian Basin.

“As we move toward clean, green energy, we are going to be seeing more pressure applied to the icons of our land and that includes the Great Artesian Basin.”

Burke Shire Mayor Ernie Camp said there were no guarantees good enough to risk the basin.

“The Great Artesian Basin is a reliable water source not only for human consumption but earlier on for stock consumption,” Mayor Camp said.

“If we didn’t have the Great Artesian Basin most of Queensland would be running no stock and bringing no value to the state economy.

“I think it is a little bit ridiculous.

“I don’t think it matters how much guarantee they will give us at the moment, it is too great a risk.

“It might be okay down there for 100 years or might be okay for a little bit longer than that but it is just too great a risk for the secure water source that brings life to much of Queensland and some of the other states as well.

“It’s too big a gamble to take.

“In a lot of areas, it’s the only source you’ve got.

“I totally agree we’ve got to do something with carbon but let’s not just shuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic – the Titanic still sank.”

Banana Shire Mayor Nev Ferrier warned damaging the Great Artesian Basin could be a bigger catastrophe than destroying the Great Barrier Reef.

“You can’t put the bullet back in the gun once you pull the trigger,” Mayor Ferrier warned.

Western Downs Mayor Paul McVeigh said “agriculture is the founding pillar of the Western Downs, and we are proud to be a leader in energy innovation.

“Advocating for long term domestic and industrial water supply is one of our key strategic priorities, and the Western Downs is receptive of projects which have positive environmental outcomes, but never at the expense of our region's most valuable resource,” Mayor McVeigh said.

“While we support initiatives to reduce carbon and help Queensland move toward its goal of net zero emissions by 2050, it's vital our water sources are not impacted by this trial, or by any future proposals, and we stand with the agricultural industry's calls for systems that protect the Great Artesian Basin."

Video grabs available for download here.

For more information, please contact:
Dan Knowles, Media Advisor