Best-Practice Water Management Plan

Find our article in the last Australian Mining Review Magazine


It is vital to have a best-practice water management plan in place to protect public health as well as the environment.

The consequences of failing to provide safe drinking water can range from tummy bugs to long-term chronic disease and serious illnesses affecting a significant portion of the population.

The potential ramifications can end up being much worse than a few hours of downtime at a mine site.

It could easily force the closure of a mining camp for a couple of weeks, not to mention the onerous task of urgently seeking drinking water from elsewhere, especially given the remoteness of many projects.

A mining company or workers camps may also face hefty penalties for failing to comply with regulatory requirements.

Simmonds & Bristow has been providing water management services in regional and remote communities for more than 55 years.

The company was formed in 1965 in South East Queensland but now has an Australia-wide footprint.

It has three arms that enable it to provide integrated water solutions; engineering and scientific services, operations and maintenance team and a training arm.

Holistic approach

Senior Scientist Travis Robinson said the close working relationships between these different departments enabled a collaborative and holistic approach to water management.

“It means we can leverage off the different specialists in these areas to discuss different options and provide support to the other units,” Dr Robinson said.

Originally Simmonds & Bristow were engaged to provide training to a Tier 1 mining company in Western Australia but they ended up developing a water quality management and risk assessment plan for the site as well.

“While on site, we recognised there were some real needs to improve management aspects of the water supply scheme and we were able to provide assistance with those requirements.

“We also provide training under the national water package to those who are operating the treatment plants and the reticulation, and often it is the case that as we are delivering training, we talk about best practice and compliance with Australian drinking water guidelines.

“Frequently, we realise as a group that there may be some improvements for the water supply scheme and we are able to offer that because of our consultancy arm, and our trainers are experienced with the operational and management side of things.”

No job too remote

It is Simmonds & Bristow’s willingness to provide services on the ground, no matter how remote the site is, which sets it apart from competitors.

“Due to our background and extensive experience and our willingness to go out to site, we are able to emphasise and understand the issues that regional and remote operators are experiencing,” Dr Robinson said.

Regional and remote suppliers, including some mining organisations, do not always meet the best practice water management requirements.

“A lot of the time, it is not necessarily the mine’s core business,” Dr Robinson said.

“For the people handling water treatment, it might not be their only role so they might not have a full understanding of what the requirements are.

“A good example is for filtration when that is used for the control of pathogens, the set points for the filters have become a lot tighter over the past five or ten years.”

A set point, or critical control point, on the outlet of the filter measures turbidity, which gives the water a cloudy appearance or shows up as a dirty sediment.

‘’This is an indicator of whether some of the worst pathogens can get through so if it exceeds that set point, it means water is potentially no longer safe to drink,” Dr Robinson said.

“Sometimes operators rely on luck a bit for water provision and when that luck runs out, it can have a significant impact.”

He said this was why it was important to engage a water treatment specialist that is up to date with evolving water management requirements.

“The management itself should be dynamic and part of a process that is reviewed and up-to-date with the latest best practice in water and waste management,” he said.

Staying on top of legislative changes

Simmonds & Bristow has the latest testing equipment to confirm filters are keeping pace with the tightening of requirements around critical control points, to ensure they are acting as an effective barrier against harmful pathogens, chemicals, dirt or other hazardous particles.

“This also assists adherence to the requirement to ensure there is adequate chlorine or disinfection while maintaining adequate contact time for deactivation of pathogenic microorganisms (viruses and bacteria).”

Dr Robinson said it was important to stay abreast of changes in legislation, such as in WA where instructions are being drafted for new regulations around drinking water, which will be provided to Parliament.

The regulations are based on a discussion paper, which reviewed the most effective options for managing public health risks associated with drinking water across the state.

Dr Robinson said the regulations were a work in progress but “are definitely a step in the right direction”.

“There are mines which provide drinking water, especially in remote areas, who may not be aware of what the new requirements are going to be,” he said.

‘’The requirements will be more prescriptive.

In the past the legislation has simply stated mining companies must minimise harm but part of the new requirements will place the onus on them to ensure the drinking water supply scheme complies with the requirements contained in the Australian drinking water guidelines.

Normally that will include the development of a water quality management plan and also having procedures for reporting when water is not safe to drink.’’

WA Health is accepting submissions until May 21 on a different discussion paper on the management of public health risks from wastewater conveyance, treatment and disposal.

Maintain On-site Training

Simmonds & Bristow is the leading Australian Registered Training Organisation (RTO1735) providing specialty water industry training courses since 1991.

The company provides training to anyone involved in the operation or management of water or wastewater schemes including in network (reticulation or sewer), treatment and wastewater disposal.

“We are also able to provide training under the national water package to upskill water industry operators so they know how to operate supply schemes,” Dr Robinson said.

“As far as the training arm, we are expanding and currently have five trainers and a range of different skills developed in the water industry over a long period of time.

“We can provide a range of different training programs schemes and we specialise in regional and remote areas, but we also do capital cities as well.

“We can do face-to-face training on site, we can do online virtual delivery and also by electronic correspondence.

“We have two offices in Australia but most of the time, particularly our trainers, work remotely.

“A real benefit is we are able to visit a plant or network and tailor training and management plans specifically to the needs of those being trained.”

Dr Robinson said safeguarding public health is at the core of what S&B does.

“The implications, if something goes wrong, will not always be the worst extreme but when it does happen, it can affect extensive proportions of the population who can come down with an illness.”

Simmonds & Bristow offers a range of services including the management of drinking water supply and wastewater disposal from a risk management perspective.

The company has the expertise to incorporate the principles of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) and Australian Recycling Water Guidelines into water management plans.

It has been involved in the development of plans for a number of different organisations including water service providers such as councils.

It has extensive experience in different types of treatment technology and schemes while offering the full gamut of services including:

  • Water sampling, testing and environmental monitoring
  • Water and wastewater treatment design solutions
  • Operation and maintenance of water and wastewater treatment plants
  • Water quality sampling, testing and development support
  • Treatment scheme repairs, optimisation and refits
  • Water Industry Operator Training