Water Journal : Water Journal November 2015
NOVEMBER 2015 WATER 45 Feature Article data to assess the quality or value of the receiving environment during approvals can lead to rejection of the proposal, or criticism that becomes publicly available. Where projects receive opposition from community groups or local residents, the lack of a robust dataset can contribute to a weakening of the proponent's social license to operate. Planning can also be seen as a single event. Too often we have seen regulatory conditions applied to projects requiring huge (and sometimes onerous) monitoring requirements. This typically manifests as very broad monitoring suites. Organisations should look to understand their data and seek, in collaboration and agreement with the regulator, to optimise the data collection process. There is clear bene t in challenging the data collection plan to ensure nite time and resources are applied to the most bene cial need. HOW SHOULD WE PLAN? The planning of a monitoring program should be determined by the data quality objectives, which are derived from a series of stages explored further below. A uniform approach is unlikely to provide suf ciently robust data to meet speci c project needs, however, frequently cost and time pressures also determine this process. To facilitate appropriately rigorous assessment and the preparation of a solid and scienti cally robust baseline dataset, it is argued here that organisations should be collecting data at a much earlier date than they are typically required to by regulation. This can affect an organisation's social license to operate, which in turn can hinder expansions, approvals and community acceptance. Figure 1 outlines a series of steps to deliver a successful monitoring program, which are discussed further below. Identify the activity One of the more overlooked components of the planning process is the identi cation of the activity. This is the starting point for the assessment process, but also forms the point from which a monitoring program should stem, setting the goals of the program, information requirements and the boundaries of the study. This identi es the processes and activities that will be undertaken to progress from a project's concept stage to decommissioning. Even where concepts are at their loosest an understanding of the siting of facilities, how water will be managed, how construction may be phased and the overall timing of the activity should be used to formulate an understanding of the potential impacts. Identify the existing environment Clearly, it is important to understand the environmental water receptors within the vicinity of the project area. Typically these receptors will be related to surface water or groundwater and are often straightforward and easy to identify, especially for projects with a small footprint, or in areas where previous development has been well documented. In other areas, where information is sparse, more detailed research may be warranted. This can be both supported by, and support, early engagement with stakeholders. Identify the impact and stakeholders Understanding how the action may impact the water environment is fundamental to the planning of monitoring, driving the type of data that are collected and its frequency. Impacts to the water environment are linked directly to the type of activity and its scale. For example, CSG extraction often requires consideration of impacts at a regional scale. The depressurisation of a coal seam can result in drawdown and upward propagation of depressurisation through a number of overlying hydrostratigraphic layers. This may drive both water quality and pressure changes within the groundwater environment and potentially in the surface water environment too. Often, regional-scale models are required to identify the potential long-term impacts to these environments. The resultant monitoring regime can, therefore, be signi cant. Small-scale projects, for example the short-term dewatering of a pit, is likely to impact only the shallow groundwater environment and is unlikely to impact groundwater quality. As a result, a smaller and less complicated monitoring regime is required. Identifying the necessary size of the monitoring program is critical to a project's ultimate nancial performance. Although similar projects may be able to be used as a proxy for potential impacts, each new project may have unique features that warrant further consideration. An understanding of the timeframe required for monitoring is critical. During the Exploration and Appraisal stage of a project, a formal EIS may still be several years out and, as such, monitoring could be staged to that point and then tailored up or down in intensity as required. Identify the methodology Identifying the most appropriate method of data collection and analytical testing can secure large cost savings. On occasion, upfront costs can lead to long-term savings; for example, the application of passive water quality sampling could reduce the ongoing labour cost of a long-term monitoring program. However, the method is not widely used in Australia and its application would require acceptance from relevant regulators. The analytical approach required for a monitoring program is formed by understanding the speci c data to be collected and how the data are going to be used by the project. De ning the number of parameters requiring monitoring can be tricky. There Figure 1. Outline of steps to understanding monitoring requirements and formulating a plan.
Water Journal September 2015
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