Assessing water dependence

Assets in the asset database that intersect the Hunter PAE form the asset list for the Hunter subregion. The water dependency of each asset in the asset list must then be assessed. Only assets that have a water dependency qualify for inclusion in the water-dependent asset register. Thus any asset that might potentially be impacted by changes in the groundwater and/or surface water regime due to coal resource development is added to the water-dependent asset register. Many assets are clearly ‘water dependent’, including all economic assets (i.e. water access entitlements and reservoirs).

In the case of ecological assets, features such as rivers, wetlands, lakes, lagoons and groundwater dependent ecosystems are clearly water dependent, however the water dependency of other assets, such as nature reserves and conservation areas, is less certain. The water dependency of nature reserves and conservation areas was determined based on their intersection with obvious surface water and groundwater features. Assets that do not overlap with obvious water features were judged not to be water dependent. The water dependency of threatened species and communities were assessed on a case-by-case basis, based on their profiles on the Species Profiles and Threats database (SPRAT) (Australian Government Department of the Environment, Dataset 8; Bioregional Assessment Programme, Dataset 9) and the NSW BioNet website (NSW Office of Heritage and Environment, 2015).

A similar approach was taken to judge the water dependency of sociocultural assets. A 500 m buffer was put around all rivers and wetlands and this was intersected with the sociocultural assets to identify those potentially having a water dependency.

Water dependence was determined for a preliminary list of assets to produce a preliminary version of the water-dependent asset register. For transparency, decisions about water dependency are recorded in the asset database. The preliminary version of the water-dependent asset register, with associated maps and data, was presented to experts and organisations with local knowledge at the Hunter asset workshop in Thornton (NSW) in April 2015 for comment and feedback. There were 18 participants from state and local governments (Table 6) and 8 members from the BA team. The participants demonstrated an enormous willingness to provide additional or better data to improve the asset register for the subregion.

Some data gaps were identified and issues were raised. They are summarised in Table 7, together with the BA response to these issues. The main issues concerned some of the datasets used and that particular species were missing from the list.

Following the workshop, a period of three weeks was allowed to follow up additional asset datasets from the local government and state agencies. Where datasets were deemed fit for BA purpose and the assets were within the PAE, they were added to the asset register.

More details about the ecological, economic and sociocultural water-dependent assets identified in the Hunter subregion, and the reasons for their inclusion or exclusion from the water-dependent asset register, are described in Section 1.3.2, Section 1.3.3 and Section 1.3.4 respectively.

The water-dependent asset register is an authoritative listing of the assets that will be included in other components of the BA; all spatial and other data associated with each asset are stored in the asset database.

Table 6 Organisations represented at the Hunter subregion asset workshop held in Thornton on Thursday 30 April 2015


Number of participants



Department of the Environment – Environmental Resources Information Network


Department of the Environment – Office of Water Science


Hunter Councils


Hunter Local Land Services


Hunter Water Corporation


NSW Environment Protection Authority


NSW Office of Environment and Heritage


NSW Planning and Environment


NSW Primary Industries - Office of Water


NSW Primary Industries – Aquatic Ecosystems


NSW Trade and Investment




Table 7 Summary of issues raised at the Hunter subregion asset workshop and actions for the Assessment team

Description of issue

Action / Response

Economic assets

Suggestion from NSW Office of Water that water rights assets could be differentiated on the basis of licence security.

Entitlements have now been classed as high security and general security licences. They probably do not need to be treated differently in the impact modelling, except to note that any changes in inflows and water held in storages would more likely impact general security allocations than high security allocations.

Close to 1300 groundwater bores do not have water rights information – tagged as unknown.

Post workshop, NSW Office of Water provided ‘purpose’ classes for 1157 bores, which left only 67 bores undefined. These 67 bores were assigned a ‘null’ class and were not included in the asset register.

Recommended the Hunter regulated river be split into two assets, reflecting river operations from two different dams.

The Hunter regulated river is represented as a single asset, but receptors will be located along the different reaches, so impacts can be assessed at more local scale.

Ecological assets

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage noted that the surface water catchments provided through Water Assets Information Tool do not represent all river assets. Want the entire river system to be in the asset list.

Thought that assets in small tributary streams might be missed.

The catchments are from Australian Hydrological Geospatial Fabric (Geofabric) (Dataset 41) – have been derived from blue line network of named rivers and cover the whole Hunter preliminary assessment extent (PAE). River network was sourced from the WAIT database (Dataset 4) for the Hunter PAE.

Assets encompass a range of scales, as determined by the source data. Receptors will be located across the preliminary assessment area to ensure that impacts at assets throughout the PAE can be assessed.

Concerns were raised that the NSW threatened species list was not used when developing the asset database.

It was noted that there are a number of NSW threatened frog species that are not on the EPBCa list that should be included.

NSW threatened species list has been generated for the PAE based on NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) sub-Catchment Management Authority (CMA) areas and is now included in the Hunter asset list. The Wallum Froglet (Crinia tinnula), Booroolong Frog (Litoria booroolongensis) and Red-crowned Toadlet (Pseudophryne australis) have been added to the asset register (Dataset 38, Dataset 39). Other species will fail the ‘fit for BA use’ test for inclusion in the asset register. They will be identified in the data gaps section (Section as having uncertain distribution. Where possible, they will be mapped to a landscape class, such that qualitative assessments of impact from coal resource development can be made.

Coastal lakes and coastal lake species missing from the asset list

  • Syngnathiformes – seahorses, seadragons, pipefish, pipehorses and seamoths

Five different datasets in the Hunter assets list (Dataset 6, Dataset 7, Dataset 8, Dataset 12, Dataset 13) contain coastal lakes. These were cross-checked against OEH datasets and experts in OEH and found to be comprehensive.

All Syngnathiformes are protected under the NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994 and are also protected under s248 of the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. There are 16 species of pipefish, 2 species of seahorse, 2 species of pipehorse and 1 seadragon which ‘may’ occur within or near the Hunter PAE. EPBCa-listed species that ‘may’ occur (i.e. not ‘known’ or ‘likely’ to occur) are not included in the asset register, unless more specific distribution data can be found. A review of Atlas of living Australia (ALA, 2015) observations shows that very few of these have been sighted in Hunter PAE coastal waters. The Beady Pipefish (Hippichthys penicillus) (Dataset 39) was added to the register based on ALA observation data.

Distribution data were sought from NSW OEH and NSW Department of Primary Industries but were not available. OEH suggested that habitat for many syngnathids are seagrass beds. The project team deemed that this information was not sufficient to change ‘may’ occur to ‘likely’ or ‘known’ to occur.

Review of water-dependency assessment was requested for the following:

  • Latham’s snipe
  • Littoral rainforest
  • Weeping Myall-Coobah-Scrub Wilga Shrubland of the Hunter Valley.

Based on expert advice received during and post the workshop, the following were classed as water dependent:

  • Latham’s snipe
  • Littoral rainforest
  • Weeping Myall-Coobah-Scrub Wilga Shrubland of the Hunter Valley.

Purple spotted gudgeon (Mogurnda adspersa) is missing

NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994 as an endangered species. A small population is known to occur in Goorangoola Creek in the Hunter region. Goorangoola Creek is outside the Hunter PAE. This species is not included in the Hunter Assets Register.

Platypus is missing

The platypus is not a threatened or endangered species, but is protected under NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. It has been added to the asset list as an ecological asset (Dataset 39).

NSW OEH recommended including the NSW OEH wetlands database.

NSW OEH wetlands database has been included (Dataset 13). There is substantial overlap between it and the National GDE Atlas mapping (Dataset 7) and Department of Primary Industries, Fisheries mapping of estuarine macrophytes (Dataset 14).

aThreatened ecological communities listed under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

GDE = groundwater-dependent ecosystem; NSW OEH = New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage; ALA = Atlas of living Australia

Last updated:
18 January 2019