The Benefit of Early Planning and Stakeholder Engagement in Groundwater Monitoring

Groundwater monitoring programs are undertaken for a variety of reasons: in advance of a project to inform a baseline; throughout approval processes; and, ultimately, to demonstrate compliance. Investment in data collection can be challenging in the early stages of the project, where the viability of a project is uncertain. However, projects can quickly move forward in seeking formal approval in advance of the preferred level of data being available. Commonly, water data may be collected with scant understanding of the real purpose of the data gathering and with a focus on water quality, with minimal consideration of the importance of measuring and understanding the processes (hydraulic head and gradients) yielding the existing, and driving potential changes to, water quality. Whilst this approach can provide a large dataset, it will typically also provide a poor return on investment.

This paper explores a number of significant issues that may arise when appropriate planning of monitoring schemes is not undertaken. We discuss how significant cost savings may be achieved over the long term while collecting an appropriate level of data to characterise baselines, effectively measure impact on the water environment and satisfy stakeholder needs for reassurance and transparency.

Flexibility including some redundancy in monitoring schemes is critical. Groundwater monitoring plans should be flexible to change, whether driven by changes in project assemblage, location of infrastructure, or regulatory changes. Investment in planning of monitoring goals and requirements at the earliest stages of a project provides a better understanding of the nature of monitoring required, allowing the program to balance appropriately the complexity of the monitoring program against the data required. As such, the monitoring program achieves its ultimate aim of delivering data which allows the project to progress in an environmentally acceptable manner while also ensuring long-term cost savings in its implementation.

Waterhouse, C., C. Hambling and T. Neame. 2017. “The Benefit of Early Planning and Stakeholder Engagement in Groundwater Monitoring.” Oral Presentation at the Australasian Groundwater Conference, July 11 – 13, 2017. Sydney, Australia: National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training and the Australian Chapter of the International Association of Hydrogeologists.

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