Water Monitoring Framework
Water Monitoring Strategy for Coal Basins in NSW
In 2014-15, DPI Water developed the Water Monitoring Strategy for Coal Basins in NSW.
In the short term, DPI Water will address these issues by expanding the existing network of water monitoring infrastructure in the coal basins. Expanding the monitoring network is better business as usual for DPI Water.
In the long term, government and industry water monitoring data will be made publicly available through a NSW whole of environment data repository. That component of the strategy is still under development.
The NSW Government has allocated $22.8 million to the strategy. It will be complete by 2020. Work has begun in the Gunnedah Basin.
The objective of expanding NSW’ water monitoring network is to improve DPI Water’s understanding of groundwater behaviour across NSW through better mapping, monitoring and management. Water monitoring is an information gathering, not a regulatory, exercise. Information from individual monitoring bores is not used to regulate nearby water use.
To monitor groundwater and surface water in the NSW coal basins to establish baseline water quantity and quality to allow the observation of water quantity and quality change over time.
- Define the baseline condition of surface and groundwater with respect to relevant quantity and quality parameters
- Monitor water quality to identify:
- Water quality signatures of inter-aquifer or surface water and groundwater mixing
- Change from baseline condition and trends
- Provide fit-for-purpose, long term, statistically robust data with which to undertake water condition and trend analysis and reporting
- Improve the conceptual understanding of water systems and their hydraulic linkages within the broader landscape and environment.
Expansion of water monitoring infrastructure
Over many decades, NSW has built a network of over 4000 monitoring bores in over 3000 locations across NSW. Those bores were built to collect information in areas where there was large-scale water use, mainly for irrigation.
In 2014 DPI Water began expanding its groundwater monitoring network in the NSW coal basins. Between 2014-2015, new deep monitoring bores were completed in the Hunter Valley, Namoi Valley and in the Narrabri and Gloucester areas. Between 2016-2020, between 50-90 new deep water monitoring bores will be constructed in coal basins in NSW (Figure 1).
Criteria for monitoring site selection
Criteria have been developed for selecting and prioritising sites to locate new groundwater monitoring bores, as follows:
- Placed in a location that identifies or confirms the existence, depth, thickness and other characteristics of strata, and provides option to take core that for further information on the characteristics of coal seams or other strata.
- Placed in a location that identifies or confirms the existence, depth, thickness and other characteristics of aquifers and aquitards. Measures head (pressures/levels) and/or water quality parameters that contribute to understanding hydrodynamics.
- Placed in a location or at a depth that provides data that is valuable for numerical modelling, in particular that optimises statistical representiveness and minimises model uncertainty.
- Placed in a location and/or at a depth where there is an important data gap and current information is deficient.
- Provides valuable leverage by complementing existing monitoring infrastructure, especially where a long record of water data exists eg. Adjacent to surface water gauging site; offset vertically from existing monitoring bore.
- Placed in a location and/or at a depth that considers the current, known future and potential longer term location of industry activity that could have potential water impacts on high value water resources, and/or water users, or ecosystems that rely on water.
- Placed in a location that addresses concerns and issues important to stakeholders and local community.
- Considers whether there are logistical (including future industry development), environmental or cultural constraints that make siting monitoring infrastructure difficult or prohibitive?
A rigorous approach will be taken to monitoring sites selection and will include an independent review where necessary.
Drilling of each monitoring bore will take between a few days and several weeks, depending on the geology where the bore is being drilled.
Drilling will have minimal impact on the surrounding area and drilling activity will generally occur within a 50m radius of each bore.
Each monitoring bore will be equipped with logging instrumentation to measure water levels or pressure and salinity. The logged data will be gathered manually from site periodically, or where needed, transmitted in near-real time to DPI Water’s web-site.
Water sampling pumps will also be permanently installed allowing field staff to regularly take water samples for laboratory analysis. These will be designed to allow a wide-range of analytes to be tested.
Completed monitoring equipment will be around 2.5m tall and will look like Figure 2. It will be fenced off in an area measuring approximately 10m x 10m.
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