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Understanding groundwater flow the focus of field day at Cecil Plains

cecil-plains-field-dayA field day was held in Cecil Plains this month to discuss a major research project aimed at developing a better understanding of groundwater flows between the Condamine Alluvium and underlying Walloon Coal Measures on the Darling Downs.

Local farmer and research participant, Graham Clapham (pictured centre) hosted the field day on his property, joined by GasFields Commissioner and fellow participant, Ian Hayllor (left) and General Manager of the Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment (OGIA), Randall Cox (right).

The aquifer pump test is one part of the Condamine Connectivity Research Project which is being led by OGIA with advice from its Technical Advisory Panel of independent, national groundwater experts and researchers.

The first stage of this test involves the drilling of four water monitoring bores by Arrow Energy. The field day demonstrated the drill core samples highlighting the different geological formations.

The test will measure changes in groundwater levels in the Condamine Alluvium and the Walloon Coal Measures that occur as result of pumping from the landholder’s existing water supply bore and as a result will provide more data on the degree of interconnectivity.

OGIA Director of Technical Projects Sanjeev Pandey said this Cecil Plains site is one of several hydrological locations that have been identified to undertake the aquifer pump testing trial.

“The reason we are interested in this particular site is because it is at the heart of a very productive and heavily utilised part of the Condamine Alluvium where pumping water for irrigation has caused a long term decline in water level. It’s also a place where the target coal formations – the Walloon Coal Measures – are in relatively close proximity to the Condamine Alluvium,” he said.

Graham Clapham whose family farms some 5000 acres of floodplain country said the Condamine Alluvium has been under stress for some decades because it has been over allocated.

“So it’s vitally important that we understand all there is to know about what drives the groundwater systems before we would engage in any resource extraction activities in this region where it could impact on that alluvial aquifer.”

“Days like today enable the community to see the core sample – to see the (geological) material – they can talk to the hydrogeologists that can explain what they’re seeing.

“And at a later date down the track when we produce the modelling results that will come from this research we will be able to understand the level of interconnectivity and have some confidence in those results,” Mr Clapham said.

Attending the field day, Chairman of the Basin Sustainability Alliance David Hamilton said it was a good opportunity to learn more about the environment we’re trying to protect.

“If we understand more about the geology and the potential problems with water flow between aquifers then we’ll be in a much better position to protect the very valuable aquifers we have.

“I congratulate OGIA, Arrow Energy for putting on the day and Graham Clapham for having the research done on his place. We saw the results of the work done at Ian Hayllor’s place and that was very informative and interesting and I think there is a major challenge in getting that research information out to everybody, so that the community at large can see it,” Mr Hamilton said.

“BSA has been calling for collaborative research to underpin CSG development and it is pleasing to see research now being undertaken”, he added.

GasFields Commissioner Ian Hayllor whose farm at Dalby was chosen as another location for the aquifer pump testing trial said the latest field day provided a wonderful chance for local farmers and community leaders to engage with researchers and industry to better understand how this project will improve the overall knowledge of groundwater movement in the Condamine Alluvium.

The Condamine Connectivity Research Project is drawing on a number of lines of investigation . In addition to the aquifer pump tests, the research project will draw on:

  • water level surveys from private water bores across the Condamine region;
  • a review of existing water chemistry data for the Condamine Alluvium and Walloon Coal Measures to understand if there has been past movement of water between the formations;
  • a detailed review of all available geological information about the transition zone between the Condamine Alluvium and Walloon Coal measures
  • laboratory tests being carried out on cores taken during the drilling of monitoring bores.

Visit the OGIA website for more information on the Condamine Connectivity Research Project.

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