Underground water mining — why fixing leaks is essential to enable development

WaterGroup Pty Ltd

By Guenter Hauber-Davidson*
Monday, 09 November, 2015

Underground water mining — why fixing leaks is essential to enable development

Could California happen here? Yes, acute water shortages are not the reserve of historically arid regions alone.

Long dependent on the snow melt from its mountains, California’s heavily populated coastal belt, along with its thirsty yet productive farms and orchards in the hinterland, is now desiccated. However cruelly the forces of nature have combined, both snowfall and rain have not fallen in typical quantities for years. California stands on the brink.

Both at an individual level and a societal level, water is essential to life. Inextricably entwined in our own basic need for water lies society’s no less important quest for growth and opportunity. Development, job creation, access to amenities, shops, health care, education — the list is endless — all require infrastructure. Reduced to its most basic input, infrastructure cannot occur without water. Simply put, a lack of water just cannot support any new development.

Even in the wet parts of Australia, water is very unevenly spread throughout the year. The desert sections — amongst the most arid in the world — speak for themselves. The vagaries that struck California could, with equal consequence, blight our own country. All this dictates prudent water management. Yet, especially in remote parts, we often find a tendency to place far more importance on building new, large, shiny and often expensive water treatment plants instead of ensuring that little or no water is lost in transport and distribution.

Imagine the reaction of the head of a large corporation if told that 20% — maybe even 30 or 40% — of the company’s finished goods were regularly disappearing between the production line and the point of sale? Would the company build an even larger plant to meet demand? Especially when the board has to base its decision on data that is so unreliable that it cannot even pinpoint how much was lost, let alone precisely where it was lost.

Sadly, and all too frequently, this is the situation with regard to water. In the mining-intensive areas of Northern Australia, significant savings can be achieved, and more precious water can be made available, if leak detection and repairs to the water supply reticulation network are undertaken. This is usually the most cost-effective, simplest and quickest way to provide sufficient water — not just in dry regions, but wherever investment has been made in water reticulation systems.

There are modern water management tools available — including online network monitoring systems — capable of identifying and detecting insidious leakage. WaterGroup believes that this type of “underground water mining” has to become an integral part of any council’s mindset.

Although Australia is the driest inhabited continent, the majority of our population lives within the coastal belt — an area of abundant rainfall. Despite this, water remains a precious commodity: WaterGroup is committed to helping harness this valuable resource.

Aimed at encouraging and supporting policy for greater water efficiency in the built environment, WaterGroup works closely with both standards and regulatory authorities, as well as government.

*Guenter Hauber-Davidson is Managing Director of WaterGroup Pty Ltd. Together with Enware Australia and Tankworks, WaterGroup evolved in response to the ever-increasing need to save water. With almost 30 years’ experience in environmental consulting, construction, delivery, operation and monitoring, Guenter is passionate about using water more efficiently. For the past 10 years he has worked on designing, managing and delivering some of Australia’s largest water-savings programs. More recently, his research revealed a huge opportunity for cost-effective water savings within water supply networks. As a result, he has now immersed himself in water loss and non-revenue water management, a topic for which he is extremely passionate. Just because it is out of sight, it should not be out of mind.

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