Water Journal : Water Journal November 2015
NOVEMBER 2015 WATER 43 Feature Article Environmental water monitoring programs are undertaken across industry for a variety of reasons: in advance of a project to inform a baseline; throughout approval processes; and, ultimately, to demonstrate compliance. The purpose of monitoring can vary, ranging from scienti c investigation to building of stakeholder con dence, or to enable adaptive pro-active management. Monitoring in the context of environmental water monitoring refers to the process by which we observe changes in water quality or quantity over a period of time. Monitoring can pose both risks and opportunities to a project. This article considers the risks that could lead to additional cost. There are two key facets of a program that we need to understand. First, we need to have a rm grasp of the reasons for conducting the monitoring. Such reasons may arise from the particular type of action or project under consideration, the nature of the environmental receptors, regulatory requirements and other stakeholder requirements, and how the data will be interpreted. Secondly, we need to understand how the data will be collected, which in turn will facilitate the type of analysis, interpretation and assessment against performance indicators. For the majority of projects, lack of planning of monitoring can lead to signi cant additional cost. These costs could be incurred through: • Additional labour time for eld teams for extraordinary eldwork trips; wasted effort; • Unnecessary data collection; collecting data that cannot directly be used; or • Through excessive or poorly targeted laboratory analysis. Costs may also be incurred if monitoring is insuf cient to reliably describe the environmental characteristic in question. Ultimately, these additional costs and associated program delays have the potential to manifest in refusal of approvals, or the imposition of unnecessarily onerous approval conditions. The major controlling feature in managing the risk of these unwelcome costs is effective planning. We therefore argue that there is a direct link between effectiveness of planning prior to monitoring commencing and the cost ef ciency of the project itself. This article explores what we consider to be the more signi cant issues that may arise when planning is not undertaken to an appropriate extent. We also discuss how we can achieve signi cant cost savings in the long term while collecting an appropriate level of data to characterise their impact on the water environment and satisfying stakeholder needs. WHY DO WE MONITOR? At the broadest level, the answer to why we monitor is straightforward: to track the potential impacts of an action on the water environment. It is, however, the speci cs of an action and the nature of the potential impacts that determine the necessary investment in monitoring programs. The drivers for investment in environmental water monitoring networks are, typically, to meet regulatory requirements. We would argue that long-term monitoring programs, driven by the organisation in collaboration with stakeholders that would include the regulator, would facilitate a more ef cient program. This would allow better focus on what is appropriate and enable the environmental baseline to be better de ned before the project commences. This has signi cant advantages to all parties, as it removes a level of uncertainty that has commonly been seen to be a major criticism of the project approvals process. Some resource activities, such as mining or unconventional gas exploration, will also require access to robust monitoring data against which we can better understand project execution. Mining, whether by surface excavation or via underground techniques, typically requires groundwater to be removed or drawn down to facilitate resource extraction where groundwater may impact on the target formation or ore body, or pose a risk during construction activities. Longer term, and typically following initial project approval, noting that there may be multiple approvals stages, we are typically required to develop our own monitoring networks. The scope of these is often determined by the regulator, such as in the example of the monitoring bore network required in the Surat Cumulative Management Area [CMA] Underground Water Impact Report [UWIR] (Queensland Water Commission, 2012) which speci cally speci es locations and target formations for groundwater quantity and quality monitoring. It is noted, however, that the proponents in the Surat CMA had contributed to decision-making concerning the locations identi ed in the original UWIR, and continue to do so as their respective projects evolve. THE BENEFIT OF EARLY PLANNING AND STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT IN ENVIRONMENTAL WATER MONITORING Monitoring environmental water refers to the process by which changes in water quality or quantity are observed over time, often in relation to a planned project. Chris Hambling and Carly Waterhouse consider the risks associated with planning a monitoring program.
Water Journal September 2015
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