Experts have cast doubt on groundwater studies that underpin the Northern Territory government’s decision to permit fracking in the Beetaloo basin, after methane bubbles were observed at hot springs in an area targeted for gas production.
In a new report, commissioned by the Environment Centre NT (ECNT), the scientists warn of “critical knowledge gaps” in baseline groundwater assessments conducted by the government in response to the Pepper inquiry into fracking.
Ninety percent of the territory’s water supply comes from groundwater while the territory’s hot springs support ecosystems and Indigenous cultural values.
“Our analysis shows that there are significant and critical gaps in the knowledge base underpinning fracking approvals in the Northern Territory,” said Matt Currell, a professor of environmental engineering at Griffith University and lead author of the report commissioned by the ECNT.
“This means that, at present, it is not possible to properly assess the risk of contamination and over-extraction of Northern Territory water due to fracking.
“Further studies are required to fill these knowledge gaps. To proceed on the current evidence base would be unwise, and may risk valuable aquifers, rivers and springs.”
Of particular concern, the authors found the government had failed to properly determine where the groundwater that…