Below I have put together an overview of the licencing process in WA for those seeking a 5C groundwater licence in WA.
Under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 (RIWI Act), a 5C license is required in all proclaimed areas in WA and for all artesian groundwater wells throughout the State. Licences or permits are required to construct or alter a well (section 26D, Form 1) and to take groundwater or surface water (section 5C, Form 3G) pursuant to the Act.
The processing of licences can often take around three to six months and in complex situations even longer. The proponent must be able to demonstrate that they have legal access to the land (eg. Ownership, Landholder’s written approval, Mining tenements as they appear on TENGRAPH etc).
If there is the likelihood of potential impacts on water resources, other users or the environment these issues need to be considered during the early development stages of the project. A summary of water balance studies may be required to justify the proposed licenced draw and to determine the impacts of the disposal or recovery of any excess water during mining or processing.
The DOW usually sets the level of hydrogeological assessment after reviewing the application for both new licences and requests for increases in draw. The level of assessment is set after receiving an application (Form 3G). As a general rule, the size of the draw helps to set the level of assessment however if risks to the resource from the take of water, or risk to other users, including the environment is minimal and can be clearly demonstrated then a lower level of assessment could be set.
If impacts are likely to occur, it is important to demonstrate how any impacts might be managed. This is usually set out clearly on the licence or agreed to in a legally binding Operating Strategy. If risks can’t be managed, then a licence is unlikely to be issued. To facilitate the process, it is important to establish good communication with the regulator so to avoid any surprises during the process that may lead to unforeseen delays and costs.
A hydrogeologist will be required to complete the hydrogeological assessment. Hydrogeological assessments are required to help determine the potential impacts of groundwater abstraction on the resource or other users including the environment. There are three levels of hydrogeological assessment, including:
- H1- desktop hydrogeological assessment
- H2 – basic hydrogeological assessment including drilling and test pumping
- H3 – detailed hydrogeological assessment including drilling, test pumping and a groundwater model
Groundwater Licence Conditions are usually set after the hydrogeological assessment is reviewed by the department and agreed to by the proponent.
Failure to strategically plan for water at all stages of a project can result in:
- delays in approvals and permitting;
- loss of investor and stakeholder confidence
- diminished shareholder value and reputation amongst regulators.
In addition, poorly designed compliance conditions associated with operating strategies can result in unnecessary and excessive monitoring costs, and compliance reporting.
Avoid delays and unnecessary costs, plan ahead for your water during the early stages of your project.