On 22 July 2018, the then NT Minister for Environment and Natural Resources, Lauren Moss, revoked the declarations with respect to the existing Daly Roper Water Control District and extended the district to capture areas within the Beetaloo Sub-basin. Department of Environment and Natural Resources water planning and engagement Director, Tim Bond confirms that the extended area is 41,313 square kilometres and includes Dunmarra, Elliott, Newcastle Waters to the west, Powell Station to south and Mungabroom Pastoral Leases to the east.

The new Water Control District will be known as the Daly Roper Beetaloo Water Control District and will be managed through the Water Allocation Plan for the Tindall Limestone Aquifer, Katherine 2016 – 2019.

Key fracking inquiry recommendation

The extension of the Daly-Roper Water Control District to include the Beetaloo Sub-basin is in response to recommendation 7.7. of the fracking Inquiry Final Report which relevantly provides that:

“That in relation to the Beetaloo Sub-basin:

  • the Daly-Roper WCD be extended south to include all of the Beetaloo Sub-basin;
  • that WAPs be developed for each of the northern and southern regions of the Beetaloo Sub-basin;
  • the new northern Sub-basin WAP provides for a water allocation rule that restricts the consumptive use to less than that which can be sustainably extracted without having adverse impacts on other users and the environment; and
  • the southern Sub-basin WAP prohibits water extraction for any onshore shale gas production until the nature and extent of the groundwater resource and recharge rates in that area are quantified.

That in relation to other shale gas basins with similar or greater rainfall than the Beetaloo Sub-basin, WCDs be declared and WAPs be developed to specify sustainable groundwater extraction rates for shale gas production activities that will not have adverse impacts on existing users and the environment.

That in relation to other potential shale gas basins in semi-arid and arid regions, all groundwater extraction for any shale gas production activities be prohibited until there is sufficient information to demonstrate that it will have no adverse impacts on existing users and the environment.”

Revocation and declaration

Minister Moss has by way of notice in the Government Gazette no. S58:

  • revoked the declaration made by notice entitled "Declaration – Daly Roper Water Control District" dated 8 December 2008 and published in Gazette No. G50 of 17 December 2008;
  • declared the part of the Territory specified in the Schedule of the Gazette to be a water control district for surface water and ground water management and allocate to the district the name Daly Roper Beetaloo Water Control District;
  • revoked the declaration made by notice entitled "Daly Roper Water Control District Revocation and Declaration of Water Allocation Plan" dated 6 April 2016 and published in Gazette No. S23 of 7 April 2016; and
  • declared the Water Allocation Plan for the Tindall Limestone Aquifer, Katherine 2016 – 2019 to be a water allocation plan in respect of the Daly Roper Beetaloo Water Control District. The water allocation plan will remain in force until 19 August 2019.

Water Allocation Plan (WAP) to apply

A Water Allocation Plan governs access to, and use of, water within the district by detailing the area and water resource to which the plan applies along with the:

  • purpose, objectives, outcomes, strategies and performance indicators of the plan;
  • sustainable yield and allocation of water to Beneficial Uses;
  • rules for the management of licences and permits; and
  • monitoring and reporting arrangements.

As a consequence of the Minister's declaration, water resource management within the new Daly Roper Beetaloo Water Control District is to be in accordance with the Water Allocation Plan for the Tindall Limestone Aquifer, Katherine 2016-2019 until it is replaced by a new plan on 19 August 2019. The Plan, amongst other things:

  • allocates water within estimated extraction limits for the beneficial uses of Environment and Cultural; Public Water Supply; Agriculture, Aquaculture and Industry; and Rural Stock and Domestic;
  • prohibits the taking of groundwater without a licence from the water source to which the Plan applies unless it is for water for rural stock and domestic or other small volume groundwater uses at the limits prescribed in Part 5 of the Plan; and
  • requires bore construction permits for the construction of all bores in this water source, irrespective of their intended use or capacity.