Fact sheet 4: EPBC Act Amendments - Water Trigger

Department of the Environment, 2014

Water resources are a matter of national environmental significance, in relation to coal seam gas and large coal mining development—usually referred to as the ‘water trigger’—under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

Water resources will continue to be included in the EPBC Act as a matter of national environmental significance under the One-Stop Shop. There is no change to the environmental standards under the EPBC Act.

Under the current provisions of the EPBC Act, water trigger projects must go through two separate approval processes. This is different to how all other matters of national environmental significance, which can be accredited for approval at a state level, are treated. In line with the One-Stop Shop policy, the Government is amending the EPBC Act to allow the Minister to accredit state and territory processes for approving projects involving the water trigger.

To ensure that states and territories have the best scientific information when making decisions for these projects, an amendment will allow the Minister to authorise all states and territories to request advice from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development.

The Independent Expert Scientific Committee provides scientific advice to decision makers on the impacts that these types of projects may have on Australia’s water resources.

Why are the amendments necessary?

Including the water trigger in approval bilateral agreements is important for establishing the One-Stop Shop for environmental approvals. It will ensure the water trigger is treated in the same way as all other matters of national environmental significance.

Providing a single approval process for projects involving the water trigger will reduce the regulatory burden on business while ensuring that high environmental standards are maintained. This will provide more certainty for investors with a simpler, streamlined regulatory system.

More information

For more information on the One-Stop Shop for environmental approvals, please go to 'One stop shop' for environmental approvals