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New Study to protect Mt Gambier

CSIRO : 06 October, 2006  (Technical Article)
Joanne Vanderzalm from CSIRO Land and Water will be leading a new study on the effects of stormwater disposal and the quality of the water when it reaches Blue Lake, Mt Gambier.
CSIRO will step up its research today on the effect of stormwater disposal on the quality of water in Blue Lake, Mount Gambier's drinking water supply. Kerbside stormwater in Mount Gambier is disposed via deep drainage bores into the aquifer that feeds the Blue Lake.

“When the tagged water is detected in Blue Lake we can determine the time it has taken to travel from the stormwater drainage wells to the lake”
Joanne Vanderzalm, Geochemist, CSIRO Land and WaterJoanne Vanderzalm from CSIRO Land and Water is leading the new study which will use a 'tracer test' to determine the time it takes for stormwater to reach the lake. Ms Vanderzalm will tag water with a harmless gas tracer before injecting it into a selection of stormwater drainage wells in Blue Lake Capture Zone. Her results will assist the management of stormwater discharge wells in the future and ensure Mount Gambier's water quality is maintained at the highest standard.

Blue Lake is fed by a limestone aquifer which may remove some contaminants as the water moves through it. It might take the water thousands of years to move through the limestone rock, but if it moves through underground caves and cracks, it could take less than one year to reach the lake.

'Ultimately, we want to understand the residence time of water in the aquifer and the long-term potential of the aquifer to protect the quality and utility of Blue Lake by removing any potential contaminants within the stormwater,' Ms Vanderzalm says.

'When the tagged water is detected in Blue Lake we can determine the time it has taken to travel from the stormwater drainage wells to the lake. We expect it may vary depending on the different paths taken by the water,' Ms Vanderzalm says.

'The tracer is sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), an odourless, colourless, non-toxic gas. Its use poses no risk to public health, the environment, or to any use of the water in Blue Lake.

'Others have used the same technique before. The Orange County Water District in California has undertaken several sulphur hexafluoride tracer tests to understand the movement of groundwater prior to its extraction for drinking water supply.'

'We will put up to 10 grams of SF6 in 30 stormwater drainage wells. If all of this gets to Blue Lake, the maximum concentration of SF6 will be 8 billionths of a gram per litre of water.'

This study is being undertaken in collaboration with government agencies including the South Australian Environmental Protection Authority, South Australian Water Corporation, Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation, Mount Gambier City Council, the South East Catchment Water Management Board and with the approval of the Department of Health.
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