River Condition Index Impact Assessment Tool

Under the Aquifer Interference Policy, there is a requirement for developers to consider thresholds for key minimal impacts on groundwater sources in relation to water table and groundwater pressure drawdown, as well as groundwater and surface water quality. Proponents must demonstrate that their actions will not cause a reduction in the condition of nearby waterways, using the NSW River Condition Index as a baseline. The River Condition Index is a state-wide spatial reporting tool which depicts river health, and although it includes key biological indicators for river condition, catchment disturbance and system resilience, it was not designed for use in impact assessment or at a site-specific scale.

The River Condition Index Impact Assessment Tool is a by-product of the River Condition Index that was developed for use by proponents and regulatory authorities in the NSW Planning, approvals and monitoring process for aquifer interference activities. It was designed to be suitable as a predictive impact assessment tool used to assess whether coal seam gas, open cut mining, long wall mining and sand and gravel extraction projects will have a significant impact on river health. The River Condition Index Impact Assessment Tool is calculated using four of the River Condition Index sub-indices, using a series of rules to compare ‘current’ versus ‘predicted future’ condition. A Proof on Concept report  documents the testing and development of the River Condition Index Impact Assessment Tool, detailing the research behind each sub-index and the establishment of their associated rules.

A River Condition Index Impact Assessment Tool web portal  is currently being developed so that development proponents can submit the necessary information for assessment online. The River Condition Index Impact Assessment analysis will then be completed by the department. The results of whether the development will cause a reduction in the condition of nearby waterways, using the NSW River Condition Index as a baseline will be sent back to the proponent as an assessment report via the web portal.