Water Journal : Water Journal June 2015
water June 2015 50 workshop reports Additionally, the Centre highlighted that it is continuing to engage with Australia’s water industry representatives around the development of a sustainable business model by which the practical implementation and administration of this framework can be sustainably managed over the next two to three years. The Centre highlighted that it is also working closely with health regulators in the United States, with the objective of having more consistent international approaches to technology regulation. At the workshop, representatives from all key sectors outlined the tangible benefits of the validation framework to their respective stakeholders. Panellists noted that this consistent approach to technology validation would streamline regulatory approvals and help bring new technology and innovation to the market. australian Water association & unsW WorkshoP By Greg Leslie, UNSW emerging International Opportunities For Australian Water expertise And Technologies This workshop gave conference participants the opportunity to hear from Australian Water Association members engaged in capacity building, humanitarian engineering and disaster response projects in the Asia-Pacific region. The presentations covered individual experiences of training, preparation and in-country delivery of sanitation systems to river communities in Cambodia (Gabrille McGill, GHD) and the challenges of rapid deployment in response following the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami and 2015’s Typhoon Hagupit in the Philippines (Paul Byleveld, NSW Health). Both presenters stressed the need for patience, good communication skills and broad technical capabilities in these deployments, as well as the understanding and support of their fulltime employer. Other presentations on humanitarian engineering initiatives (Heidi Michaels, Engineers Without Borders and Allesia Winter, Skyjuice Foundation), emphasised the importance of developing long-term partnerships and working to the strengths of local communities to effect meaningful change. A presentation by Russell Rollason (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) highlighted the Commonwealth’s commitment to sustainable water management, underscored by funding of bilateral agreements with a range of countries in South Asia and multilateral arrangements through the World Bank, Asia Development Bank and the United Nations. Paul Smith (Australian Water Association) presented on Australia’s water reform journey, highlighting the demand for Australian capabilities and technological innovations from international markets. Other avenues for engagement include the recently launched Australian Water Partnership. These initiatives provide opportunities for companies and organisations to engage in the region and leverage expertise, particular management strategies for reform, and extension of water resources developed by governments of Australia during the millennium drought. Follow-up actions from the workshop include a discussion paper on support and initiatives for the Australian water industry to build capability and co-ordinate resources to engage on capacity building, humanitarian engineering and disaster response projects in the developing world. national centre for groundWater research & training WorkshoP By Fiona Adamson, NCGRT Drilling Into The Future Of unconventional Gas Australia needs safe, secure, competitively priced natural gas supplies and has abundant natural gas resources as well as enormous prospective unconventional reservoirs. That said, land access and approval for the development of natural gas from unconventional reservoirs will be vetoed where proponents of projects are unable to assure that the life-cycle of operations will meet community expectations for social, natural and economic environmental outcomes. The Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) recently undertook a review of the science, technology, economic, environmental and social impacts of shale gas in Australia, carefully examining the possible risks involved and the potential benefits that could accrue. This workshop considered the results of this review. In general, extraction of shale gas does not require extraction of large amounts of groundwater (as is the case with many CSG operations). However, risks can arise from drilling through aquifers, or through spillage or from well failure. But these potential impacts are not inevitable; nonetheless, the adoption of best practice backed by a trustworthy and enforced regulatory regime is vital. Unlike CSG, which can often be produced from cleats in the coal without the need for fracking, to produce shale gas it is necessary to hydraulically fracture (frack) the fine-grained rocks to allow the gas (and any associated oil) to flow. There have been millions of fracking activities undertaken over the years around the world, but very few documented examples of related earthquakes (none damaging). Similarly there are few examples of aquifer contamination resulting from fracking. Nonetheless there is a need for regulations that ensure fracking is only undertaken when the geology of the site is well understood and carefully monitored. Extraction of shale gas can lead to surface impacts on the land and water, or on ecosystems, with aggregated and cumulative environmental impacts through surface disturbance, destruction and fragmentation, and loss of habitats and ecological communities (this also occurred in Queensland to some degree with early CSG developments). Drilling technologies have greatly improved in recent years and much of that impact can be avoided. Similarly, there is now a much greater understanding of how to minimise surface disturbance related to roads and site works. Nonetheless the ACOLA Review rightly considered it essential that appropriate strategies were adopted and best practices were firmly in place to minimise surface impacts occurring in Australia in future. However, it also has to be said that our overall understanding of how sedimentary basins work is still inadequate and that more research in this area would also help to ensure sensible strategies for beneficial basin use and protection. There are, of course, risks associated with the production of shale gas, just as there are for any form of resource extraction or infrastructure development, but the evidence suggests that those risks are small and can be managed.
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