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Appendix B1 - Matter-specific Standard for Protection of Water Resources from Coal Seam Gas Development and Large Coal Mining Development

Recommended National Environmental Standards

Appendix B to the Final Report sets out in detail 4 recommended National Environmental Standards that were developed by the Review following consultation with science, Indigenous, environmental and business stakeholders and with input from technical experts.

The Australian Government listed the ‘water trigger’ as a matter of national environmental significance in 2013, in response to community concerns regarding the impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining on water resources such as groundwaters, rivers, wetlands and springs.

The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC) was established to provide independent scientific advice to the Australian Government Environment Minister and relevant state ministers on the potential water-related impacts of proposed coal seam gas or large coal mining developments, and to provide greater transparency in the regulatory process.



Environmental Outcome

Protection of a water resource, which is or is likely to be significantly impacted by coal seam gas or large coal mining developments, including any impacts of associated salt production and/or salinity.

National Standard

The protection of water resource(s) from the impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining developments are supported by actions, decisions, plans and policies that:

  1. Ensure all relevant components of an action, plan or policy are considered together in determining its potential to impact on a water resource.
  2. Consider best available information and data consistent with IESC Information Guidelines, and other relevant policies, including:
    1. a scientifically robust evidence base to enable full assessment of all risks, impacts and mitigation measures, including trigger points,
    2. baseline and impacted conditions (encompassing natural spatial and temporal variability),
    3. uncertainty associated with all risks should be quantified where possible and reduced to acceptable levels, and
    4. monitor, evaluate and report on the biodiversity, water quality and ecosystem functions of the water resource(s) before, during and – where legacy effects are likely – after an action.
  3. Obtain and take into account independent expert scientific advice from the IESC.
    1. both the advice and response should be published by the decision-maker consistent with the EPBC Act and National Environmental Standards, and any relevant conditions of approval or accreditation.
    2. Consider the potential multiple and cumulative impacts of the action and climate change on the water resource(s) over the full period that works or their impacts remain in the landscape (to at least 100 years).
  4. Ensure conditions within water resource(s), including water level/pressure and water quality, maintain (and where possible improve) ecosystem services and access by associated users.
  5. Employ achievable and ecologically feasible offsets to counterbalance residual significant impacts, only after all reasonable steps to avoid and mitigate impacts are taken.

Further Information

IESC Information Guidelines, Explanatory Notes and Fact Sheets.

This Standard should be applied in conjunction with the Overarching MNES Standard, relevant matter-specific Standards and other National Environmental Standards.


Best available information: is the most comprehensive information possible, based on and including all the available data, to enable the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC) to provide robust scientific advice to government regulators on the water-related impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining development proposals. See Information guidelines for proponents preparing coal seam gas and large coal mining development proposals (2018) for further explanation of the IESC’s information requirements.

Coal seam gas or large coal mining developments: as defined in section 528 of the EPBC Act

Cumulative impacts: the collective impacts from all actions, decisions, plans, policies and other pressures, measured against a stipulated baseline. See Significant Impact Guidelines 1.2 (2013), Significant Impact Guidelines 1.3 (2013) and Reef 2050 Plan: Cumulative Impact Management Policy (2018) for further explanation of the concept of cumulative impacts.

Ecosystem services: The benefits and services obtained from water resources. These include:

  • provisioning services (e.g. use by other industries and use as drinking water)
  • regulating services (such as the climate regulation or the stabilisation of coastal systems)
  • cultural services (including recreation and tourism, science and education); and
  • supporting services (e.g. maintenance of ecosystem function).

Offset: measures that may be used once it has been demonstrated that all reasonable steps have been taken to avoid and minimise impacts, that are provided to compensate, repair or replace an impacted value, including changes to the integrity, quality, condition and/or extent of habitat. Offsets must be consistent with the EPBC Act Environmental Offsets Policy (2012, as updated from time to time), or an accredited policy relating to offsets of a state or territory. Offsets must be achievable and ecologically feasible:

  • An offset is achievable where demonstrated scientific knowledge exists on how to restore the habitat with a high confidence of success, and its long-term protection is assured (for example through conservation covenants or conservation agreements), and
  • An offset is ecologically feasible where it can be demonstrated that the species or community can be reliably restored in a timeframe proportionate to effectively address the impact of the action and enough space exists to undertake restoration (not ecologically or tenure constrained).

Water resource(s) (as defined by the Water Act 2007) means:

  1. surface water or ground water; or
  2. a watercourse, lake, wetland or aquifer (whether or not it currently has water in it); and,
  3. includes all aspects of the water resource (including water, organisms and other components and ecosystems that contribute to the physical state and environmental value of the water resource)

Uncertainty: the state, even partial, of deficiency of information related to the understanding or knowledge of an event, its consequence, or its likelihood.

Additional information

Supplementary navigation and content


    Publish date

    October 2020