Condamine River

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Condamine R.JPG
Condamine River, Warwick, 2009
Name origin: In honour of Thomas de la Condamine
Country Australia
State Queensland
Regions Darling Downs, South West Queensland
Part of Balonne catchment,
Murray-Darling basin
 - left Sandy Creek (Condamine River), Wilkie Creek, Wambo Creek, Undulla Creek
 - right Emu Creek (Condamine River), Swan Creek (Condamine River), Glengallen Creek, Dalrymple Creek, Kings Creek (Condamine River), Hodgson Creek, Oakey Creek, Myall Creek, Jimbour Creek, Cooranga Creek, Charleys Creek
Settlements Killarney, Warwick
Source Mount Superbus
 - location below The Head, near Main Range National Park
 - elevation 772 m (2,533 ft)
 - coordinates 28°14′42″S 152°28′21″E / 28.24500°S 152.47250°E / -28.24500; 152.47250
Mouth confluence with the Dogwood Creek to form the Balonne River
 - location between Surat and Condamine
 - elevation 256 m (840 ft)
 - coordinates 27°03′20″S 149°37′37″E / 27.05556°S 149.62694°E / -27.05556; 149.62694Coordinates: 27°03′20″S 149°37′37″E / 27.05556°S 149.62694°E / -27.05556; 149.62694
Length 657 km (408 mi)
Basin 13,292 km2 (5,132 sq mi)
Reservoirs and weirs Talgai Weir, Yarramalong Weir, Lemon Tree Weir, Loudoun Weir, Tipton Weir, Cecil Plains Weir
Condamine River is located in Queensland
Condamine River
Location of Condamine River mouth in Queensland
Wikimedia Commons: Condamine River

The Condamine River, part of the Balonne catchment that is part of the Murray-Darling Basin, drains the northern portion of the Darling Downs, an area of sub-coastal southern Queensland, Australia. The river rises on Mount Superbus, South East Queensland's highest peak, on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range, approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) from the east coast of Queensland, and then flows north west across the Darling Downs, then west.[2]

Course and features[edit]

Hodgson Creek at Felton, 2014

The headwaters of the river rise on the slopes of Mount Superbus, part of the Main Range, before passing through Cambanoora Gorge. The river flows through the towns of Killarney and Warwick, while the tributary Gowrie Creek drains the slopes around Toowoomba. At Surat the Condamine turns to the south-west and becomes known as the Balonne River.[3] The Condamine descends 516 metres (1,693 ft) over its 657-kilometre (408 mi) course,[1] with a catchment area of 13,292 square kilometres (5,132 sq mi).[4] The water basin contains more than 1,800 wetlands.[5]

The Balonne River forks near Dirranbandi with a western branch being called the Culgoa River which, in turn, flows into the Darling River. The eastern branch of the Balonne River in turn branches again - into the Bokhara River on the right and the Narran River on the left (eastern) side. These rivers join with the Barwon River west of Brewarrina which also flows into the Darling River. Towns the Balonne passes through include St George, Dirranbandi and Surat. In this area Bungil Creek joins the Balonne River.[2]

Water storage[edit]

The Condamine River near Chinchilla in 2012

Water from the Condamine River is used for town water supply and for irrigation. Leslie Dam on Sandy Creek, a tributary of the Condamine, is the main water reservoir for Warwick. Talgai Weir is a small weir that can hold 640 megalitres (140×10^6 imp gal; 170×10^6 US gal) near Clifton.[3] Other water storage facilities on the Condamine River include the Yarramalong Weir, Lemon Tree Weir, Loudoun Weir, Tipton Weir and the Cecil Plains Weir. The Condamine River is reduced to a series of drying ponds during droughts in Australia.


Parts of the water catchment were settled by the Bundjalung people. The Condamine River was named by Allan Cunningham in 1827 for Thomas de la Condamine, a former aide-de-camp to Governor Ralph Darling who became the colony's first Collector of Internal Revenue. Patrick Leslie was the first white settler in the area. He established Canning Downs in 1840, near Warwick.

Major Thomas Mitchell crossed the Balonne River on St George's Day, 23 April 1846. The next year 1847 Ludwig Leichhardt went to examine the course of the Condamine River.

Railway bridge construction at Warwick, 1882
Flooded Victoria Street, Warwick, 2010

In 1985, it was proposed by the Water Research Foundation of Australia to transfer water from the Clarence River to the Condamine water basin.[6] The Condamine River and its catchment area were involved in the 2010–2011 Queensland floods. During the floods the river reached a record peak at Condamine of 15.25 metres (50.0 ft) and another peak of 14.67 metres (48.1 ft).[7]

Coal gas industry[edit]

The Coal Seam Gas industry (often referred to as Coal Bed Methane) started exploring for unconventional gas in the Chinchilla region, through which the Condamine River flows, around 2000 when Bob Bryan formed The Queensland Gas Company (QGC).[8] From humble beginnings supplying gas into the domestic market, the industry grew quickly with the advent of the CSG/LNG industry and building of export facilities in Gladstone.

The gas is found in coal seams attached to the coal and is trapped underground by water pressure. To extract gas from coal seams it is necessary to remove the water from the coal seams to allow the adsorbed gas to flow.[9] Broad scale de-watering of the Walloon Coal Measures by the gas companies commenced and the impacts soon became apparent, as stock water bores drilled into the coal started to become gassy.[10][11] The Walloon Coal Measures are hydraulically connected to the aquifers of the Great Artesian Basin (within the Surat Basin) and in some locations immediately underlies the Condamine Alluvium.[12]

Methane gas[edit]

From 2012 through to early 2016 bubbles of methane gas have been observed escaping from the river.[13] The discharges vary in intensity and are most likely linked to a fault line. The seeps have been monitored by scientists contracted by Origin Energy but, according to the gas industry, the cause remains unknown.[13] In 2012, the Queensland Government undertook an investigation into the gas seeps. The technical study concluded that preliminary investigations indicated that the bubbling was unlikely to be caused by coal seam gas (CSG) activities in the region, but that further studies were required. In relation to the presence of methane in the river, the report concluded that “…there is no safety risk or evidence of environmental harm occurring in the immediate area from the Condamine River gas seeps."[14]

Natural gas seeps are not all together uncommon in Queensland, the gasfield commission (a government agency) identified a range of soil gas surveys undertaken during the 1980s and 1990s which measured low levels of non-toxic methane gas ranging from less than 10 parts per million (ppm) to 240ppm naturally occurring in the subsoil at depths of up to one meter.[15]

This Condamine River seep was brought to the forefront of media attention by New South Wales Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham, in which he allegedly set alight the methane gas bubbling from the riverbed. He also mentions "hydraulic fracturing" as likely to be contributing to the problem, but to date there is no direct link.[16][17] Origin Energy, the company whom owns a majority of the coal seam gas wells in the Condamine area, refutes the claim, with a spokesperson stating that the nearest drilling projects were located several kilometers away from the river.[18] They conceded, however, that "we are starting to see more bubbles than there used to be", which raises further questions of the gas company.[18] The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) commented that "we have a pretty good idea of what’s going on, but it is hard to be completely definitive as the gas is emanating from underground", and that "the methane gas emanating from the Condamine River in Queensland poses no environmental impact."[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Map of Condamine River, QLD". Bonzle Digital Atlas of Australia. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Shaw, John H., Collins Australian Encyclopedia, Collins, Sydney, 1984, ISBN 0-00-217315-8
  3. ^ a b Harrison, Rod; Ernie James; Chris Sully; Bill Classon; Joy Eckermann (2008). Queensland Dams. Bayswater, Victoria: Australian Fishing Network. p. 154. ISBN 978-1-86513-134-4. 
  4. ^ "State of the Rivers report: Condamine River". Department of Environment and Resource Management. 28 September 2009. Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  5. ^ "Condamine River drainage sub-basin". WetlandInfo. Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. Retrieved 25 April 2016. 
  6. ^ Ghassemi, Fereidoun; Ian White (2007). Inter-Basin Water Transfer: Case Studies from Australia, United States, Canada, China and India. Cambridge University Press. p. 120. ISBN 1139463047. Retrieved 25 April 2016. 
  7. ^ "Flood Warning System for the Condamine River to Cotswold". Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  8. ^ "Bob Byran AM". Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame. State Library of Queensland. Retrieved 25 April 2016. 
  9. ^ "CSIRO". What is Unconventional Gas. CSIRO. 
  10. ^ Liz Wells (22 October 2013). "Qld farmers lose bore water followimg CSG extraction". Coal Seam Gas News. Retrieved 25 April 2016. 
  11. ^ "Bore blowout sparks gas concerns". Beef Central. Nascon Media. 24 November 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2016. 
  12. ^ "Study to assess water connectivity in the Condamine". Connected Waters Initiative. University of NSW. 18 January 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2016. 
  13. ^ a b Mark Willacy (15 February 2016). "Condamine River's mysterious bubbling 'intensifying'". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 10 April 2016. 
  14. ^ State of Queensland, Department of Natural Resources and Mines (2012). "Summary Technical Report - Part 1 Condamine River Gas Seep Investigation" (PDF). Condamine River Gas Seep Investigation. Retrieved 7 July 2016. 
  15. ^ "Historical evidence of landscape gas seeps in Qld coal basins" (PDF). Queensland Gasfields Commission. 
  16. ^ Coultan, Mark (22 April 2016). "Greens MP sets river on fire in anti-coal seam gas protest". The Australian. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 23 April 2016. 
  17. ^ Williams, Patrick (23 April 2016). "Queensland river bubbling with methane gas set alight by Greens MP". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 23 April 2016. 
  18. ^ a b The Courier Mail staff (23 April 2016). "Greens MP sets river on fire in anti-coal seam gas protest". The Courier Mail. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 23 April 2016. 
  19. ^ Bell, Nicola (April 26, 2016). "Gas seeping from Condamine River poses no threat, says CSIRO". The Weekly Times. Retrieved April 26, 2016. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Condamine River at Wikimedia Commons