COAL seam gas (CSG) companies will fund the ongoing management of state groundwater resources, with a levy to be introduced next year. Under the plan revealed by Queensland Environment Minister Vicky Darling (pictured) at the APPEA Water Forum in Dalby on Thursday, a levy on petroleum tenure holders would fund more than $4 million required each financial year for the Queensland Water Commission (QWC) to carry out its role in investigating and monitoring groundwater resources as the CSG industry continues to expand. "It's only fair that the industry pays for the costs of ensuring the environment is protected," Ms Darling said. "The QWC plays a key role in managing the impacts of CSG water extraction on groundwater resources and this levy ensures the companies developing this resource are paying for this work.'' A draft regulatory assessment statement, with landholders given until October 14 to provide feedback on the plan. The QWC, which began operations last year, has so far been funded by the State Government. Under the levy proposal, the tenure holders will also reimburse the State Government for the initial start-up costs, with plans that during each of the first three years of the operation of the levy, in addition to the charge for the costs for the year, the charge will also include one third of the costs incurred by the QWC for 2010-11. The proposal states this would cost the CSG industry more than $1 million per year, for three years. The QWC is currently preparing an Underground Water Impact Report (UWIR) to assess groundwater impacts across the Surat Basin. The report will include maps that show predicted future water level impacts. As well as showing long-term impacts, these maps will define, for each aquifer, the areas where water levels are expected to fall by more than specified trigger thresholds within three years. These areas will be termed 'immediately affected areas' and petroleum tenure holders will be required to enter into agreements with bore owners about arrangements to maintain water supply in these areas. Under the plan, the QWC will update the UWIR every three years, allowing future water levels to be progressively refined. AgForce policy director Drew Wagner said the levy was a "constructive" move by the State Government to ensure CSG companies were held to account for any possible impacts their activities could have on groundwater and underground aquifers. "This announcement is due recognition that the CSG industry will have an impact on underground aquifers and groundwater," he said. "With this industry still in its infancy, it is difficult to say with any degree of accuracy what any cumulative impact might occur - this levy is a way of identifying these issues before they become major concerns." The government announcement comes as Ms Darling also revealed that early monitoring of about 200 groundwater bores had shown no impacts from CSG activity had been found, sparking cautious criticism from the Ag industry lobby group. Mr Wagner said until all the UWIR and baseline bore assessments had been completed, it was "actually impossible" to say with certainty that there have been no impacts on aquifers as a result of CSG activities. With AgForce meeting at the Sunshine Coast for the annual conference late last week, State Minister for Agriculture, Tim Mulherin announced a further $1.4 million to expand the "AgForward Coal Seam Gas Landholder Support Initiative" into the Galilee and Bowen Basins. More than 1000 producers across south west Queensland have attended the sessions, which are free to all producers and provide the tools and resources to negotiate a fair agreement with a CSG company and minimise the impacts of CSG on their properties. "Despite this funding, AgForce continues to call on the government to restrict CSG operations until the industry's cumulative impacts on the environment are known," AgForce CEO Robert Walker said.