Adani plans to take 12.5b litres of water as farmer denied access in 'double standard'
- Category: Water
- Created: Wednesday, 20 November 2019 22:42
- Written by Michael Slezak - ABC News
Exclusive by national environment, science and technology reporter Michael Slezak.
A farmer has been denied access to a river system Adani plans on drawing 12.5 billion litres of water from in what activists are calling a "double standard", documents obtained under freedom of information laws show.
The mining giant plans to take 12.5 billion litres of water from the Suttor River every year, nearly as much as all local farmers combined.
Despite this amount, the documents show at least one irrigator had their application for a water licence rejected in 2011, leading activists to claim farmers were assessed more harshly than Adani.
The documents also show the modelling used by the company to predict the impacts of the water usage ignored the past 14 years of rainfall data and, despite planning to take water until 2077, it did not take into account the impacts of climate change.
The revelations came a week after the Federal Government decided to assess the environmental impacts of Adani's water take without a full environmental impact statement.
"Altogether, this underscores how poor the decision was last week to allow 12.5 billion litres to be taken without assessment," Carmel Flint from anti-mining group Lock The Gate Alliance said. The group obtained the documents under Queensland's Right To Information laws.
A spokeswoman for Adani Australia said the company had provided all the information the Queensland Government demanded.
"Adani's approved water take represents less than 1 per cent of the annual water flow available in the Belyando/Suttor River System [part of the Burdekin Basin] and we pay the same price as other industrial users for this water," she said.
Among the documents is a report Adani submitted in 2017 when applying to the Queensland Government for a licence to take the water from the river.
In that document, released to Lock the Gate Alliance, Adani details other users of the river, noting their total combined take is just more than 9.3 billion litres.
Other government documents show there is another agricultural user with a licence to take 4.8 billion litres of water a year, taking the total to 14.1 billion litres — 13 per cent more than Adani's licence.
There are three other licences that do not have total limits, but are limited to draw between 100 and 500 litres per second from the river.
Adani has been given a licence to take water at a rate of up to 11,600 litres per second — a rate that would fill an Olympic swimming pool in about 3.5 minutes.
'There is a massive double standard'
Also among the documents is a summary assessment made of Adani's application by the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mine.
It notes some lagoons in the floodplain will be filled less often if Adani is granted the licence, which will threaten endangered ecosystems.
"This potentially indicates an additional risk not only to the lagoon aquatic ecosystems, but also to other long-lived floodplain water-dependent ecosystems (e.g. floodplain vegetation communities, including some of-concern and endangered remnant regional ecosystems," the report reads.
It goes on to say the risk "is acceptable at this time".
Adani will be allowed to take up to 12.5 billion litres a year up to 2077. But in the past, smaller applications for licences have been rejected. The documents show one irrigator, the details of whom have been redacted, was refused a licence in 2011.
"There's a massive double standard at play between mining and agriculture," Ms Flint said.
"Irrigators have previously been refused licenses from the Suttor River and then Adani gets this massive licence."
A spokesman for Queensland's Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy said: "All Queensland water entitlements are based on the best available science which considers both the environment and the specific needs of all users.
"All mines in Queensland go through an extensive assessment for water usage."
He noted the department put more than 200 conditions on the project to protect the environment and other water users.
The spokesman also pointed out the 12.5-billion-litre entitlement was only allowed to be taken in a year where the river was experiencing at least 85 per cent of its average flow.
"In a period in which there is low rainfall and less water availability, there are strict mechanisms in place to preserve flows to protect the environment and to allow for other users," he said.
Adani's spokeswoman said any questions about the company's modelling should be directed to the Queensland Government.
The Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mining and Energy did not answer written questions about the data.