In Australia, almost 17% of available water resources come from groundwater. So, understanding the environmental impact of that use is vital in ensuring access and usage of groundwater resources is safe, compliant, respectful of all stakeholders and considerate of the future.
For a range of sectors, from resource mining to agricultural and infrastructure projects, having an intimate understanding of groundwater-related operational issues is critical in ensuring safe practices and avoiding unforeseen risk. At Australasian Groundwater and Environmental (AGE) Consultants, our highly skilled team delivers robust and rigorously researched end-to-end groundwater and environmental advice to help clients understand the complexities of the underground environment whilst ensuring compliance with all regulations.
Groundwater modelling is a powerful methodical tool that creates computer simulations of underground water systems and helps predict impacts from mining, infrastructure and agricultural projects on aquifer conditions, vegetation, and ecosystems. These groundwater model predictions ultimately underline project and environmental risks relating to groundwater.
Developing a strong relationship with the client is the first step in understanding their specific needs and discussing areas of legal, environmental, or cultural significance which might impact the modelling. Data is then collected from the client and government databases. Armed with scientific and technical expertise, our groundwater modellers then begin the process of collecting and inputting data to develop predictive models:
- A conceptual model provides a simple representation of the natural system, describing the direction of groundwater flow and the relationships between groundwater, climate, surface water and features of cultural and ecological significance.
- Analytical modelling can be used to assess the impacts of smaller projects on water resources. If risks and uncertainties are low, these models may suffice in providing all necessary information.
- Numerical models are expected for significant projects and include many parameters that are needed to replicate the groundwater system accurately. Calibrating the model facilitates the best match between the observed data and the model predictions.
Each member of our team of highly trained hydrogeologists and engineers brings not only a thorough understanding of the regulatory and legislative groundwater requirements to their modelling but is able to apply specialised calibration and uncertainty analysis methodology. When the modelling begins, the modeller takes the conceptual understanding of the groundwater system and uses it to first build the model structure, before assigning hundreds of parameters to the software. Calibration allows for fine tuning to optimise model predictions, and uncertainty analysis provides a range of potential impacts on the groundwater system. The calibrated model predictions and uncertainty analysis are used together when the project is reviewed and then assessed by the regulator.
End to end, large projects can take up to a year, while smaller projects may be delivered within a couple of months. Comprehensive groundwater modelling provides a deeper understanding of a groundwater system, facilitates the preparation of impact predictions, and quantifies uncertainty around the model predictions. This comprehensive analysis of the system benefits both the client and the regulator.
Environmental Impact Statements are an integral part of operations in multiple sectors, and governments require that they be taken seriously, not treated as a mere ‘tick-box’ exercise. Our team at AGE are proud to conduct groundwater modelling with rigour and integrity, not only for the success of projects but for the future of our environment.