BLOCKADE: Around 100 people were there for the 'Stop water mining rally in Uki' on Saturday 27 October, where residents stopped water trucks in the main street.
BLOCKADE: Around 100 people were there for the 'Stop water mining rally in Uki' on Saturday 27 October, where residents stopped water trucks in the main street. Dave Norris

Review of bottled water extraction welcomed by farmers

UPDATE, 2.30pm: 

Alstonville plateau avocado farmer Michael Hogan said he welcomed the State Government's review into the impacts of water bottling industry on groundwater. 

Mr Hogan said Ballina Shire Council had published a report back in 2004 which concluded the Alstonville aquifer, used by properties from Tregeagle to Newrybar, was stressed.

A controversial water extraction facility on Ellis Rd at Rous proposed in a development application currently before Ballina Shire Council would extract 100mL of water per annum for water bottling.

"You talk to a lot of the old farmers about their wells and their bores, and the balance has actually gone down," Mr Hogan said.

Mr Hogan said the entire aquifer system needed to be comprehensively studied.

"They need to look at the amount of allocation of bores, the volumes of those allocations, the purpose of those allocations."

"We really need to see all bores metered and regularly checked."

Mr Hogan noted that unlike agriculture, water bottlers would take their entire annual allocation, year in year out.

"If they've over allocated the amount of water available, that would dry the aquifer up, and it would crash."

Rous macadamia farmer Peter Ranford said the review was "marvellous news".  

"I'd like to see them put a moratorium on it until they work out what the consequence of drawing water off continuously is."  

"I don't think they know when they're taking water from aquifers full time the damage it does to the aquifer."  

ORIGINAL, 11am: AN INDEPENDENT review of the bottled water industry has been announced by the NSW Government following widespread concern about its impact on Northern Rivers groundwater supplies.

The review will be managed by the NSW Chief Scientist, who will provide advice on sustainable groundwater extraction limits on the Nothern Rivers and advice on whether the current or proposed groundwater monitoring bores are sufficient.

Lismore MP Thomas George said he asked Minister for Regional Water Niall Blair to commission to review.

"This review is not about stopping groundwater extraction, which we know is very important to landholders who rely on groundwater for stock and domestic purposes," Mr George said.

"I asked Minister Blair to commission the review so that we have a better understanding of what groundwater extraction for water bottling, means for the long term viability of the water table."

Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW and Nationals candidate for Ballina Ben Franklin said while the review was ongoing, Ballina Shire Council should not approve any further development applications for groundwater bottling.

"I welcome the NSW Government announcing this inquiry today, it is the only option to ensure that the people of Ballina have all the data on the potential impacts that bottling is having on the region."

Nationals candidate for Lismore Austin Curtin said he wanted to see the government and community presented with the facts.

"I have met with various residents and community groups, including the Tweed Water Alliance, who have raised concerns over the impact this industry is having on our important water resources," Mr Curtin said.

"This independent review will ensure that we are in a position to make a data-driven decision to secure the future of the Northern Rivers, now and for generations to come."

The Chief Scientist & Engineer is expected to provide his initial report by early February 2019, with a final report to be published in mid 2019.

Minister Blair said that the independent review would ensure that water remained available into the future in the Northern Rivers catchments for both stock and domestic users and for groundwater dependent ecosystems.

For further information on water extraction, please visit the Department of Industry website.