CSG in our drinking water catchments... are you OK with it?

This is where your tap water starts its journey

Aerial view of Sydney water catchmentsAre you a Sydney Water customer? If so, the water that comes out of your tap comes from land managed by WaterNSW (formerly the Sydney Catchment Authority). This land includes five catchments — Warragamba, Woronora, Upper Nepean, Blue Mountains and Shoalhaven — covering less than 2% of the land in NSW. It supplies drinking water for 60% of the state’s population.

This largely unspoilt, native bushland captures and filters our drinking water. It is strictly managed to protect drinking water quality; unauthorised or illegal access attracts fines of up to $44,000. Yet coal seam gas (CSG) licences and wells have been approved in our drinking water catchments.

The simple facts

Sydney Catchment Authority Sign

  1. Our water catchments are protected, by law, by the WaterNSW — whose role it is to protect and preserve water quality.
  2. These ‘Special Areas’ are considered so sensitive they are protected by fines up to $44,000 for unauthorised or illegal access.
  3. In December 2012 the NSW Minister for Primary Industries replaced the entire Board of the SCA. The new chairperson is a former director of two of Australia’s largest mining companies, leaving no public health expert on the SCA Board.
  4. A CSG well has been drilled in the Warragamba catchment and the Department of Planning and Infrastructure has recommended approval for Apex Energy to proceed with a 16 CSG well project in and around the Woronora and Upper Nepean catchments (though, thankfully, in July 2013 the Planning Assessment Commission rejected a time extension that would have allowed the project to proceed at this time and Apex’s licences were subsequently cancelled).
  5. Former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell made a clear promise that his government would protect our water catchments from the risks of coal seam gas mining. This was a promise his government has since broken.
  6. NSW Government buybacks in 2015 have left our water catchments currently free of active CSG licences, but there is no legislation for a permanent ban and it’s expected the government will open up new areas for exploration when their ‘Strategic Release Framework’ is finalised.