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Evaluating Wildfire Impacts on Regional Water Quality

Melbourne VIC, Australia
KISTERS North America

Government Champion

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

Cost

Initial:
63 Thousand USD
Maintenance:
5.8 Million USD

Project Status

Operational since 2020

At a Glance

After extensive fires, the Victoria Dept. of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP) increased water quality monitoring in the most heavily affected areas to determine impacts and runoff risks. Stakeholders can now easily access WQ, fire, and climate data from specific sites, catchments or basins.

Problem Addressed

DELWP is a partner of, and manages, a regional water monitoring partnership in coordination with more than 40 partners who oversee collective contracts for water monitoring and data sharing. Monitoring efforts focus on water quality, flow, and rainfall.

Following devastating bushfires, the agency expanded the program to incorporate continuous measurement of dissolved oxygen and turbidity as well as monthly field and laboratory water quality measurements at 12 new sites in the burnt areas, downstream catchments, as well as upstream and in parallel catchment areas.

The problem was twofold: First, the department needed to integrate processes for discrete water sampling into existing processes for collecting continuous data. Second, DELWP needed a convenient way to make new and existing data readily available to stakeholders assessing water quality before and after the wildfires as well as subsequent major storm events.

Scientists will continue to track the recovery of the catchments over the coming months and years.

Victoria State Government used/is using KISTERS Water Quality Management and Web Portal solutions to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

As an existing user of KISTERS hydromet software to manage continuous monitoring data, DELWP knew that its workflow could be preserved as it sought to integrate non-continuous water quality data and analytical laboratory results. The agency has been using Hydstra software to automate data ingestion, storage, quality assurance, analysis and reporting of surface water level and rainfall.

Following the brushfires, the department quickly sought to perform similar value-added processing on discrete water quality sampling data. Program managers can now schedule site visits, verify collected samples and replicates against lab orders and results, and confidently document the chain of custody.

DELWP staff use the new software module to store continuous and discrete datasets and perform quality control protocols. Subsequently analysis, reporting, and sharing are conducted on information of the highest quality.

In addition to its existing Water Measurement Information System web portal, the department chose to provide a dedicated Post Bushfire Recovery Web Portal. Agency staff and regional stakeholders can explore, compare and download existing hydrometeorological data and new water quality information in greater detail. The new portal also displays remote sensing fire extent and intensity observations to more closely monitor burn scars and runoff impacts on water quality.

Summarized information is available to policymakers and regional community members to quickly digest and understand impacts.

The agency has also configurated the portal to provide specific documentation and integrated State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPP) guidelines.

Outcomes

  1. Staff and regional stakeholders are able to easily explore, compare, filter & download data via the Post Bushfire Recovery Web Portal.
  2. Significantly reduced demand on and time needed for internal IT staff to establish a website with an intuitive user design.
  3. DELWP can supply data access to the public with a guest account, reserving more advanced functionalities for designated portal users.

Lessons Learned

  1. Summarized information is desirable by policymakers and regional community members who share concern for the environment and want to understand the fire impacts.

Who Should Consider?

Communities working together to collect, analyze, and share quantitative data on water quality, wildfire, weather, and climate

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