Initial report into Northern Rivers bottled water released

Media release | 13 February 2019

The initial report from the Independent Review of the Impacts of the Bottled Water Industry on Groundwater Resources in the Northern Rivers Region of NSW has been released.

  • You can find the initial report at the Chief Scientist & Engineer's website.
  • This fact sheet provides a summary of the initial report and its findings.

Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water and Minister for Trade and Industry Niall Blair said the initial report was an important first step in providing advice on what the sustainable groundwater extraction limits are in the Northern Rivers region. The independent review's final report will further assess what impact the bottled industry is having on both surface and groundwater.

“Water is a precious resource, never more so than in a time of drought,” Mr Blair said. “Determining the sustainability of this region’s groundwater reserves is a complex question. The NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer has made a fast start in assessing the issues and concerns of all parties in the Northern Rivers and his Office is in the process of gathering further data and information which will shape the final report, due mid-year.”

The independent review is being conducted by a team from the Office of the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer, including independent experts in both hydrology and statistical analysis. Since the Minister requested the independent review in November 2018, the team has undertaken two visits to the region, to both the Tweed and Alstonville Plateau areas, to meet with stakeholders, including local community groups, local government, primary producers and bottled water companies.

With regard to the current water take of the bottled water industry, Mr Blair says the NSW Government, through the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR), has acted swiftly to ensure compliance. “Though all facilities were complying with current licence requirements, three out of the four major bottled water extractors in the Tweed area have now had their bores fitted with accredited water meters. The fourth was already operating with appropriate technology,” he said.

Based on data obtained to date, the Chief Scientist & Engineer’s report found the bottled water industry’s total water licence requirements for both existing and proposed operations amount to 0.9 per cent of the all water access rights in the four groundwater sources within scope. This will be analysed further as work progresses.

While in general the Northern Rivers groundwater systems are classified by Department of Industry - Water as low risk, the report found that the Alstonville Plateau groundwater source was fully allocated. This system was identified as under stress in the drought of the early 2000s and new monitoring bores were installed in response to this, and no new commercial water licences are available. New or expanding businesses can only buy licences from existing holders.

The initial report noted community unease over the potential growth of the bottled water industry, an increase in large water truck movements on unsuitable country roads, environmental concerns posed by plastic bottle production and suspicions of extraction in excess of either Development Application or water licence stipulations.

The full report is scheduled for mid-2019.