February 2010

Water: H2O = Life exhibition at the National Museum

23.02.2010 - Posted by Dom Blackham
As water remains at the top of the national agenda in Australia, the National Museum of Australia is presenting an in-depth look at the planet's most precious natural resource - water.  The NMA description of the exhibition is posted below.

The Water: H2O = Life exhibition illuminates some of the many challenges related to humanity's sustainable management and use of the life-giving, but finite, resource — water. It explores the many ways that water shapes life on Earth and makes our planet livable and also suggests actions people can take to help preserve our planet's water.

More than 60 objects and models from the American Museum of Natural History highlight diverse cultural and spiritual aspects of water; including the role water has played in the rise of civilisations around the world. Throughout the exhibition, visitors are challenged to reconsider the way they view water — to see it not as a limitless resource to be taken for granted, but as the finite and precious resource it truly is.

Water: H2O = Life is organised by the American Museum of Natural History, New York and the Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul, in collaboration with Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland; The Field Museum, Chicago; Instituto Sangari, São Paulo, Brazil; National Museum of Australia, Canberra; Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada; San Diego Natural History Museum; and Science Centre Singapore with PUB Singapore.  The National Museum of Australia has included an Australian component to the exhibition. This unique component will look at how birds, plants and animals have adapted to the driest inhabited continent, how Indigenous people have related to water, and how Australia has developed its water resources. It will also look closely at the many problems in regard to water, one of the biggest issues now confronting Australians.

Further information on the exhibitation is available at www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/water/

Congratulations Dr Zavadil!

23.02.2010 - Posted by Dom Blackham
Congratulations from everyone at Alluvium to Elisa Zavadil on successfully passing her Ph.D! Elisa's research, carried out at Melbourne University, examined the spatial scales used by river scientists to understand how river ecosystems function. Elisa developed relationships between channel size, shape and flow at a range of scales commonly used in ecology, hydrology and geomorphology. The application of spatial scale hierarchies in these disciplines has increased significantly in the last twenty years. Examples of the characterisation of flow hydraulics at the reach-scale are illustrated in the images below.

Reach-scale hydraulics: no perceptible flow

Reach-scale hydraulics: rippled flow

The objective of Elisa's research was to improve our understanding of the interactions between these disciplines and to contribute to water resource management for the protection of river ecosystems.

You can read more about Elisa's research in her thesis abstract or by contacting her at elisa.zavadil@alluvium.com.au.

Welcome Gaye!

22.02.2010 - Posted by Amanda Wealands
Gaye Willcocks joined Alluivum Melbourne last month and has been working hard to get us all in order ever since. Taking on the ever challenging role of Office Manager, Gaye brings a wealth of experience from her previous position at Blake Dawson, a top tier law firm where she worked in the Energy and Resources group reporting to 5 people ranging from a partner to a first year lawyer. In addition to her amazing technical ability, Gaye brings great stories from her extensive travels, diving, and (I'm hoping) samples from all the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival masterclasses she's booked in for.  Thanks for joining the team Gaye!

Colombian coffee calling

18.02.2010 - Posted by Ross Hardie
In November 2009 I travelled from one coffee culture to another, from our office in South Melbourne to Colombia, South America. The trip was made at the invitation of Cerrejon Coal, to review their plans to avoid and mitigate the impacts of mining operations on the Rancheria River in north east Colombia. Cerrejon Coal is the largest mining operation in Colombia and one of the world’s largest open cut coal mines. Cerrejon Coal is jointly owned by BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Glencore International (owned by Xstrata).

Rancheria River

This was my first trip to South America and my reception in Colombia was uncertain. I had, from the comforts of our office in South Melbourne, expressed some concerns to Cerrejon Coal over the impacts of their future mine operations on the river. This potentially uncertain reception was compounded by warnings of kidnappings and a developing spat between Colombia and neighbouring Venezuela.


So how did it go? Well I thought I was well prepared, having trained on those ‘skinny flat whites’ in South Melbourne. Not likely, I still had my trainer wheels on. The Columbian brews were short, thick, strong and not softened by milk. I was alert but not alarmed! The ever present security guards provided both comfort and a constant reminder of possibilities. Were they there for my protection or to ensure that I didn’t corrupt the locals with tea? I was warmly received by the Cerrejon team. They had a genuine commitment to the environment and to site rehabilitation, and an enthusiasm to embrace best practice waterway management. Best of all, I got to explore a rarely visited part of the world, establishing some great friendships while indulging in some seriously good coffee.

Wayuu people travelling to market

Trying arepas from a street vendor near Cerrejon Mine

Riparian buffers in tropical rivers

11.02.2010 - Posted by Dom Blackham
Sarawak is the largest state in Malaysia, located on the island of Borneo. It still has vast tracts of intact rainforest, some of which are home to populations of orangutans, now considered to be a threatened species. 

Large-scale deforestation has occurred across Malaysia, particularly in the period since independence from Britain in 1963. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN estimates that Malaysia as a whole lost approximately 140,000 hectares of forest between 2000 and 2005. The well documented environmental consequences of deforestation include increased erosion, carbon release and water quality impacts, but the Malaysian government is trying to balance these impacts with the social imperative to increase the quality of life for its large rural population who have, to date, been largely bypassed by the benefits of economic development.

We have been working with the Natural Resources and Enviroment Board of Sarawak to develop a tool to define the width of forest or grass strips alongside rivers that must remain intact to protect the instream ecosystem from sediment loads and water quality impacts. These areas, known as riparian buffers, are critical for river health but the lack of scientific infomation about their effectiveness in Sarawak hampers the ability of the government to enforce the adoption of riparian buffer widths in association with land development activities.

In partnership with Malaysian consultants Chemsains we developed a riparian buffer tool that determines the minimum riparian buffer width required at a site to reduce the impact of sediment transport from upslope areas. To address the significant knowledge gaps we carried out a series of controlled field experiments using portable flumes that allowed us to control inflow rates, sediment concentrations, hillslope and vegetation type. The results from the experiments were combined with a simple model of soil erosion rates to form the riparian buffer tool, which can be applied at any site in Sarawak to determine the minimum required buffer width.

Some images of the field experiments are shown below.

Looking upstream at the the Batang Ai flume: v-notch weir at the downstream end for measuring flows.

Looking downstream at the Batang Ai flume. Note the mature grassy vegetation inside the flume prior to the experiment starting

Close up of grassy vegetation in Batang Undup flume.

For more information on the riparian buffers project please email Michael Bain at michael.bain@alluvium.com.au.

BRW client choice awards - finalists

10.02.2010 - Posted by Amanda Wealands
Alluvium has been listed as a finalist in the BRW Client Choice Awards for the third year running. Again we offer a special thank you to those that took the time to complete the survey on our performance over the past year. The process receives over 30,000 surveys and is the largest survey of its kind globally. Again, in the engineering area we are up against a range of large multinational entities, and look forward to the challenge to see if we can bring home an award. We'll let you know how we go in March.

Super Tuesday

9.02.2010 - Posted by Amanda Wealands

We're counting bikes on the morning of Tuesday 2 March as part of the biggest visual bike census in the country! Bicycle Victoria run Super Tuesday every year, aiming to establish a reliable annual benchmark for bicycle commuting to allow those providing for bike riding to base their judgements on accurate, relevant and up to date information.

Plus you get a bright orange t-shirt, $50 towards the bicycle users group of your choice and a warm fuzzy feeling of doing something good with your morning. If you want to join us, you can register here. It'll be pretty super.