The Queensland Government has introduced new laws that save mining companies from applying for water licences.

Mining firms will only need to reach “make good” agreements with landholders for approvals, rather than going through a separate water licence approval process for “associated water”.

The Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 (PDF) defines “associated water” as that which is extracted as a “direct and unavoidable consequence of undertaking the mining activity”, and so argues that it should be taken into consideration as a central part of the approval process.

Non-mining water-users such as the farming community say they would prefer mines’ water use was controlled by licenses, but welcome the amendment that will see the cumulative impacts of mining activities factored into the approvals process under the Water Act amendments.

“It won't change for the current process that is in place for the petroleum and gas sector,” Queensland Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps said.

“If a project is proposed, then the environmental impact assessment process determines whether or not there's likely to be an impact on the groundwater of an adjacent landowner, who has a water bore in that area and then the company is required to make a statutory ‘make good’ agreement with that landowner prior to any activity occurring.”

“We're trying to move that principal over to the coal and hard metal sector which...will replace their current requirement to secure a water licence before they commence that project.”

It means the use of ‘non-associated water’ (used in wash-down facilities, bathrooms and other instances) will continue to require a license in the mining sector, and they will become a new requirement for the petroleum and gas industry.

Cripps added that other proposed changes seek to speed the process for irrigators to convert water licences to water entitlements, for Queensland to implement a fully tradeable water market by 2017.