August 4, 2014
Operational Value from Compliance Reviews
Periodic compliance reporting is one of the conditions of many groundwater abstraction licences. Typically, compliance reports include the volume of groundwater abstracted, the resulting effect on groundwater levels, groundwater quality and a comparison of these against licensed conditions. In Western Australia, for example, reporting requirements are outlined in the Department of Water’s Operational Policy No.5.12 and they have variously been called Wellfield Assessments, Annual Aquifer Reviews and Groundwater Monitoring Reports.
However, over and beyond maintaining an abstraction licence or a component of social licence, there is often the opportunity to use a compliance review to add operational value. We believe there is often the opportunity to review the data from an operational perspective with potential benefits for costs and risk management.
Unfortunately, the available data do not always allow an operational review. For example, some information on operational water levels in pumping bores should be available. Data to undertake an operational review could come from a combination of step-discharge pumping tests and measured pumping water levels. Where data on the operational performance of the bore are available, it is possible to address the following key questions:
- Has the performance of any bores noticeably deteriorated? Lower pumping water levels in a less efficient bore will mean greater pumping costs.
- Can declining bore yields be remediated with groundwater-engineering solutions? Determining this may avoid the capital costs associated with drilling and equipping additional bores.
- What is the maximum yield that can be sustained from the existing system and could this be increased? Knowing the current deployable yield and theoretical maximum yield can help with planning for current and future water demands and also with contingency planning.
The example below shows a water supply bore where performance has noticeably deteriorated between 2000 and 2012. The decline in rest water levels between 2000 and 2012 is caused by nearby mine dewatering. The larger drawdown with discharge is caused by a deterioration in the hydraulic performance of the bore.
In this example, there would be opportunities to increase the bore yield and reduce pumping costs by changing the pump configuration and re-developing the bore (in the example, redevelopment could reduce pumping costs by over 30%). Moreover, increasing the bore’s yield may help avoid the capital cost of additional bores (if the bore in the example was part of a borefield supplying 5,000kL/d – typical for a mine water supply – the capital saving could be over $0.75 million).
Most compliance reports also provide an opportunity to review monitoring requirements. Reviewing monitoring requirements could involve both reducing monitoring in some areas and increasing monitoring intensity in others. Why increase monitoring? An increase in monitoring could be required, if proportional contribution to cumulative impact needs to be determined, or for better environmental stewardship in sensitive areas. Overall, the objective should be to maintain a monitoring network that helps manage risks, but is as logistically efficient as practicable.
Deciding to undertake an Operational Review
The team at AQ2 have helped many clients with their compliance reporting, both in Western Australia and beyond. We have developed an efficient methodology and are able to tailor our reports to the specific requirements of each jurisdiction. At AQ2 we work with our clients to determine whether the available data will support an operational review. And of course, whether an operational review will actually add value to their project. Typically, where a groundwater monitoring review is expanded to incorporate an operational focus, separate reports will be produced – one focussed on compliance and the second an internal document for operations staff. However, it is in the compilation and review of data where there can be great efficiencies.