The basics of total water cycle management planing

    Friday, August 21, 2015

    In 2010, the South East Queensland (SEQ) Healthy Waterways Partnership (HWP) developed a total water cycle management (TWCM) planning guideline.

    Published by the Department of Environment and Resource Management, the protocol delivers a framework for stakeholders responsible for supporting sustainable water management initiatives throughout SEQ. 

    The HWP's endeavour brings up an interesting discussion. What can environmental engineers glean from the TWCM strategy? What are the core principles within the plan that can be applied to similar endeavours? 

    The basis of a TWCM strategy 

    Before designing drainage networks, wastewater treatment centres and other solutions, engineers, project managers and other stakeholders must familiarise themselves with SEQ's natural water cycle. 

    Water cycles are integral components of greater ecosystems, and are influenced by geographical factors, climate, demographics, settlement trends, rural and industrial actives and other factors. Understanding a water cycle enables engineers and developers to determine how new structures, solutions or investments will impact its continuity.

    The primary idea is to maintain balance; develop strategies that sustain communal water requirements without disrupting the environment's integrity. 

    Processes associated with TWCM planning 

    As one can imagine, developing an effective TWCM strategy requires stakeholders to conduct investigations. Analysing water resources is an example of such action.

    Water resource planning can either be regarded as a sub-responsibility inherent in TWCM development or as a standalone initiative. It all depends on stakeholder commitments. Regardless, water resource assessments consist of analyses regarding: 

    • Resources: Regional rivers, lakes, dams, springs, groundwater and overland flow. 
    • Ecological outcomes: Will water be consumed and replenished in accordance with the natural continuity of water cycles? 
    • Future use: How much water will be needed to support the requirements of future socieities? 

    Overall, TWCM plans are compounded on a variety of assessments, such as industrial application audits and water replenishment analyses. Developers may seek technical advice from civil engineering firms, ecologists and even virologists if epidemiological risks are suspected. 

    Developing for specific uses 

    No single TWCM strategy is identical to another. An agricultural operation will have different implications for a regions water cycle than a bustling metropolitan area, for instance. To expand on this example, consider how using certain fertilisers and pesticides can impact water cleanliness and result in certain ecological repercussions. 

    According to the HWP, SEQ's catchment and waterway designs have, despite population growth, decreased the amount of sewage-based pollutants that have permeated into Moreton Bay. This is a small example of TWCM planning in action.

    TWCM, as a topic, cannot be summarised within a 400-word blog. You can be sure that we'll be visiting this subject more than once. In general, treat this article as a reliable overview, rather than a granular analysis.