4 T Consultants4 T Consultants

By Ian Rankine

Does quality count ?

All businesses and consumers know the value of quality.  Agricultural producers know the quality standards that the meat processors, grain buyers and supermarkets require in order to achieve premium prices. Coal producers know the importance of providing products that meet the quality and consistency standards of their customers.
Scientific research, monitoring and analysis of water, air, dust, soils etc is no different – if the client does not receive reliable data that meets the industry and statutory requirements, then their market and business risk increases.  Poor quality methodologies mean that samples submitted for analysis will yield poor quality (inaccurate) and inconsistent (imprecise) data – which may result in poor decisions or outcomes on critical issues such as:

  • whether a site meets industry and/or statutory compliance
  • whether a site or business activity has to be suspended, stopped or closed permanently
  • whether remedial action has to be implemented, and the urgency of that action
  • whether there are health, safety or environmental risks at the site
  • whether research or project results and conclusions are valid for investment decisions.

It is always better to do less, but to a quality standard, than to do more to a sub-standard level, because the client wants confidence in the results and products.
In a period of low economic activity, there is always pressure to cut costs, but make sure quality is maintained because mistakes can be very costly.

As the photo says: “The Bitterness of Poor Quality remains Long After the Sweetness of of Low Price is Forgotten”.

By Ian Rankine

Can’t identify a waterbug? Check its Genes

While macroinvertebrates (macros) have long been used by environmental scientists to assess ecosystem health – many mine sites, for instance, conduct annual surveys of macro populations.  However, the methodology is not without problems.

Identifying macroinvertebrates is a time consuming task – and it’s definitely a skill.  (We have seen macros identified in reports that don’t even exist in Central Queensland!).  Identification down to species level is the domain of just a few experts.

Genomics to the rescue

Like most fields in the world of science, there is progress in this area as well – the use of genomics (the study of DNA and RNA) – to identify waterbug species.

As the cost of genomic identification (like all technologies) decreases, the technology becomes more widely used.

Being able to identify samples down to species level would provide us with an enormous amount of additional, valuable information about our river ecosystems.

But wait – there’s more…(species that is)

The use of genomics is also identifying new species.  What were thought to be physically identical macros are actually being shown to be separate species.

To read more about “DNA Barcoding”, head  over to these recent articles.

By Ian Rankine

Tools of the Trade – Groundwater Monitoring

Unlike stream monitoring or rainfall, groundwater monitoring has always been a bit of a “dark art” for many people.  Depth to water measurements may only be done intermittently and infrequently (e.g.annually).  Depending on the site and requirements for that bore, this may not tell us what is actually happening with the groundwater.

Manual SWL measurement

Low Frequency Monitoring

The first chart below shows actual data from a bore that has been monitored since 2009.  The readings for January and July are shown. Biannual measurement is common in many groundwater monitoring programs .

The standing water level (SWL) in the bore appeared to be stable until Jan 2012 then it appears that the bore level is fluctuating significantly.

Monthly monitoring

The chart below shows monthly data for the same bore.  4T was, in fact, monitoring the bore each month, and the monthly data shows the variability that is actually occurring in the groundwater level.

Monthly monitoring
Monthly SWL readings from the same bore show high variability as the bore is pumped for use.  The bore recovers well after each pumping cycle to a stable SWL.

Monthly SWL readings from the same bore show high variability as the bore is pumped for use.  The bore recovers well after each pumping cycle to a stable SWL.

The hidden story

The smaller dataset in the first chart disguises a significant amount of variability in the SWL.  From 2009 until 2012, the level appears to be very stable, raising no cause for concern.  It is not until July 2012 that there is any indication of variability.  

In this particular instance, we know that the SWL variability is due to the bore being pumped – it is a production bore – so there was no cause for alarm because it recovers to a stable SWL following each pumping cycle.  

In the first chart, the readings in July 2012, January 2014 and January 2015 just happened to coincide with dates that the bore was being pumped.

Continuous monitoring

The use of continuous, in-situ loggers is a cost-effective and accurate means of overcoming the data deficit that comes with intermittent monitoring.  The logger can be programmed to record SWL at any time interval required. (If you need your SWL recorded every second – that’s possible!), so it provides very detailed data and highlights any small fluctuations.  

Data download

Loggers can be;

  • configured to transmit data in real time. This data can be viewed on-line, and even connected to alarms set to trigger at a given groundwater level, or
  • downloaded manually to a computer – either during a periodic site visit or when the monitoring period has ended and the logger is removed.

The chart below shows SWL data from a bore logger that was set to monitor at 6 hourly intervals, giving a very accurate and transparent picture of what is actually happening in the bore.  

This data also shows that there appears to be a trend of dropping water level (SWL) since July 2012.

Data from an in-situ bore logger recording at 6 hourly intervals tells an accurate and transparent story about the state of the groundwater bore.

Tools of the Trade

Manual SWL readings are taken using an electronic ‘dipper tape’ (left photo).  This sends an audible signal when it contacts water.  There are different length tapes and types available and 4T can assist with selection and operation.

Continuous loggers (right photo) are small enough to fit most bores, and are generally very robust and reliable. However, 4T has encountered some problems in high-salinity (high EC) environments.

The selection of tools to measure SWL depends on your objectives , budget and what resolution of data is required.  4T can assist with selection of the right tool for the job. 

By Ian Rankine

Mission “Mallo” – Raising money for cancer patients

Claire Mallyon keeps our administration (and us) in order, and her husband Ian (“Mallo”) is on a mission to raise money for cancer support. Ian’s aunt died of cancer in 2012, so Ian has dedicated himself to raising funds for the Cancer Council accommodation centre in Rockhampton which provides accommodation for remote and rural families receiving cancer treatment.  

Evan Corry from Giant Rockhampton has helped the cause by donating a fabulous road bike for the ride, and many other local Emerald businesses have pitched in to help raise these badly needed funds.

Ian will ride from Emerald to Rockhampton on September 3rd.  He will depart from the Emerald Shell Service Station, and he hopes to get to Rockhampton in about 10 hours.  

One of the 4T utes will be going along as a support vehicle.  You can check out Ian’s campaign on his Facebook Page.

If you would like to make a donation to this extremely worthy cause. head over to Ian’s Facebook Page or just contact Claire at the 4T office. 

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Does quality count ?
Can’t identify a waterbug? Check its Genes
Tools of the Trade – Groundwater Monitoring