Water Resource Associates

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Water and Environment

Good environmental management requires that all development be sustainable, i.e. meets the needs of the present without compromising future needs. This conflict between present and future needs impacts on surface and groundwater management. The balance of skills and experience within Water Resource Associates Ltd makes us uniquely qualified to execute projects where the need for sustainability is paramount.
  • WRA General Experience
  • Water Framework Directive
  • Water Quality
Tab 1
Good environmental management requires that all development be sustainable, i.e. meets the needs of the present without compromising future needs. This conflict between present and future needs impacts on surface and groundwater management. The balance of skills and experience within Water Resource Associates Ltd makes us uniquely qualified to execute projects where the need for sustainability is paramount.

People have always been drawn to water - it is after all a prerequisite for survival. Whilst the rivers, in many of our cities, or the ponds, in villages, now seem picturesque they were originally the vital source of water, for people and for their livestock. Later these same rivers were a source of energy and transport. But as industrial power developed, rivers and streams increasingly came to be used as open sewers - with devastating consequences. The influence of development affected water in many other ways: wetlands were drained for agricultural land, rivers were dredged or embanked to control flooding, dams were built which changed natural patterns of flow.

The impact of these changes became increasingly negative - both for humans and for wildlife. Superimposed on these direct effects is that of climate change which, as the picture of the drowned village of Epicuen in Argentina shows, is already happening.

Groundwater development has always required an assessment of safe yield of an aquifer system. It is only recently that the long term impacts of development on quality of water are beginning to be understood. Saline intrusion or increased salinity from effected naturally saline layers can occur. Recently widespread contamination of water supply wells by arsenic has resulted from aeration of aquifers resulting from water table fall as a result of pumping. The other prime environmental concern is the contamination of groundwaters by leaching from agricultural or other man-made practices.

Water Resource Associates has experience of many aspects of water and the environment in most of the world's climate zones. In the UK this includes studies of measures to counteract the effects of acid rain and of climate change. Overseas it includes studies of a polluted lagoon in Ghana and of plans to abstract water upstream of the Okavango delta in Botswana. We also have experience of many analysis tools to study the degree of impact. This includes a range of mathematical models which are recognised as national standards.

In analysing water and the environment Water Resource Associates has always taken a balanced approach and, regardless of the client, has always given an objective appraisal.
Botswana and Namibia
The river Okavango rises in the humid mountains of Angola and flows southwards into the Kalahari desert. There, at the southernmost limit of the great African rift valley, the water is held behind a small geological displacement a few metres high and spreads out to form the Okavango Delta - an area internationally famous for its wildlife.

Vigorous international opposition to proposals for water supply abstractions upstream of the Delta led to an independent review which concluded the proposals would have a negligible impact on the environment.
The Hadeija-Nguru basin in Northern Nigeria has a valuable wetland. WRA was called on to review a project, funded by IUCN, which looked at ways of conserving the wetland and providing benefit for local residents.
The Korle lagoon receives most of the runoff from the city of Accra. The runoff is untreated and as a consequence the lagoon has suffered. WRA advised on the hydrology and feasibility of alternative methods of alleviating the problem.
The Goksu delta on Turkey's Mediterranean coast receives drainage water from an irrigation system. This water has helped to create the lagoon but at the same time the excess nutrients carried by the water have led to eutrophication. WRA advised on the water balance and how the characteristics of the lagoon could be improved.

In addition our Associates have also worked in:

Review of all water resources surveys to define the scope for irrigation development including conservation projects and the use of spate flows in the wadi channels.
Study of the impact of deforestation, changes in cropping pattern, and irrigation and hydropower development in NE Thailand on the hydrology of the Mekong.
Review of the hydrology of the Zambezi with emphasis on the apparent change in the regime of the Upper Zambezi to define the basis for further hydropower development at Kariba.
The marshes of southern Iraq, at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, have for long provided the basis of a unique lifestyle in this otherwise arid region. Drainage works in recent years could be damaging, or even drying out, some of the marsh areas, and they are also affected significantly by upstream development.

An international study supported by the AMAR Appeal reviewed the impact of these developments. The operation of all storage, diversion and flood control works in the Tigris and Euphrates basins were modelled over the historical time series to predict the continual reduction in water supply to the marshes. The study concluded that present and planned works upstream of the delta are such that little could be left of the marshes after 10 to 15 years.
The Danube delta in Romania is important as a source of fish protein and for many bird species. Dredging work over the last few decades has enabled flows from the river to pass more quickly into the shallow lakes, bringing silt and pollutants such as phosphates.

A mathematical model of part of the delta was prepared as part of a strategic planning study, which proposed to reduce the spread of eutrophication by closing off some of the newly dredged channels encouraging flow through reed beds.
Study of the environmental impact of sewerage schemes and tourism on Lake Köycegiz and Dalyan Beach in southern Turkey. Preliminary water balance studies showed that there is a net inflow from the sea each summer and that the ecology of the lake is finely balanced.
Tab 2
In 2000, the European Union adopted the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) which aims to protect and enhance the status of aquatic ecosystems on inland surface waters, transitional waters, coastal waters and groundwater and to promote sustainable water use.  It is hoped these aims will be achieved by setting standards on water quality and ecological status that will be met mainly by reducing pollutant inputs, particularly priority hazardous substances, from the surrounding catchment.

Improving the water quality and ecology status of European rivers is difficult for four reasons:

  • Whilst the study of the relationships between physical and chemical processes and the ecology in lakes is established, the equivalent science in rivers and wetlands is still relatively new. The understanding of how fluvial hydrochemistry controls the ecology and the feedback mechanisms are not sufficiently understood to predict the ecological response in rivers and wetlands with certainty;
  • Pollutants which affect the ecology, either directly or indirectly by contributing to air pollution or climate change, are typically by-products of industry, farming, transport and power generation. All are currently of benefit to the economy of Europe, and therefore pollution controls in these sectors will have social and economic consequences, which are not fully understood;
  • Changes in the climate, which are predicted to exceed natural variability, may confound our current understanding of chemical cycles in soils, groundwater, lakes, rivers and wetlands;
  • Questions remain over what ‘good’ ecological status means. The WFD is based upon restoration to reference conditions, but the definition of an undisturbed river-system is uncertain and left to each Member State to define.

Water Resource Associates Ltd is well placed to help those managing the environment and the Competent Authorities, charged with policing the directive, to deal with the four problems. The directors and associates of WRA have a wide range of experience in hydrology, water chemistry and ecology and together can provide the integrated science required to implement the WFD; in particular WRA can provide a range of hydrological and water quality models to help investigate catchment management options.

Within the EU a common implementation strategy has been worked out. This takes accounts of other directives such as those on flood risk management, priority substances and groundwater. The EU has also issued a series of guidance documents covering such topics as: economics, water bodies, pressures and impacts, heavily modified water bodies, intercalibration, public participation, wetlands and ecological status.
chalk-stream, WRA
eutrophic-stream, WRA
The above photos show, on the left, the Classical Chalk Stream with abundant Ranunculas and, on the right, a highly eutrophic stream showing dead and decaying stream plants . The WFD emphasises improving the ecological as well as chemical status of freshwaters.
sediment-transport, WRA
On the photo above we see sediment Transport from the Canal to the River Kennet at Copse Lock. Sediment transport in catchments is a key component of the WFD since it can affect flooding, ecological habitats and is a vector for contaminants.
Experience as a company and directors

Pan Europe
Directors of WRA have used a catchment-scale model of nitrogen dynamics to investigate the key factors and processes controlling nitrogen dynamics in river-systems throughout Europe. The model has also been used to investigate the impacts of climate and land use change on nitrogen dynamics. A model to understand the relationship between flow, phosphorus and macrophyte dynamics in rivers has also been developed; this model is currently being used to understand how changes in the physical state of a river controls the biological status.

WRA reviewed the current scientific understanding of the hydrology, nutrient hydrochemistry and ecology of the River Kennet for use in the Collaborative Research Programme funded by DEFRA. This programme is developing an economic assessment of the implementation of the Water Framework Directive in complex catchments.
In addition our Associates have also worked in:
Projects in Eastern Europe aimed at initiating the production of river basin management planes in line with the WFD. Countries involved include, Ukraine, Belarus, Macedonia and Greece.
Tab 3
Water Resource Associates have developed a range of water quality models for modelling river systems and catchments.

Water Quality presents special problems to environmental managers who have to control rivers, lakes, groundwaters and wetlands to meet both environmental standards and water supply standards. For example, the new EU Water Framework Directive is having a major impact on the control of water quality and ecology as the new standards are set and applied at the catchment scale. New techniques on modelling catchments are required in order to cope with the increasing complexity of water quality issues.

Water Resource Associates have developed a range of water quality models for modelling river systems and catchments. These include the HERMES and INCA software packages. HERMES simulates the transport of pollution events down river systems and this model simulates flow, Dissolved Oxygen, Biochemical Oxygen demand, Ammonia, E Coli and any conservative or nominally non-reactive pollutant.

In association with research at Reading University, Water Resource Associates has also developed a suite of catchment-based models collectively known as the INCA (Integrated Catchment) models. These take into account the land surface and land use and route the water and associated quality into the river network. Current versions of the software include INCA-N for flow, nitrate and ammonia, INCA-P for phosphorus, sediments, macrophytes, epiphytes and phytoplankton, INCA-SED for a sediments and INCA-Metals for a range of metals as well as a carbon model for DOC or water colour problems. All the models are process based, dynamic, daily and generate fluxes estimates and concentrations of all the variables at key locations along river systems.

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Prof Paul Whitehead has undertaken an extensive INCA Flow and Water Quality Modelling study in the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna River systems to investigate the impacts of climate change on river discharge, nitrate, ammonia and phosphorus into the future. This is the most complex INCA modelling study that has been attempted and results suggest increased monsoon flows and some reduced dry weather flows, or with extended drought periods. Plus nutrient concentrations would fall due to the extra dilution effects in monsoon periods. The effects of socio-economic change has also been investigated to evaluate the Ganges clean-up plan and to study the impacts of proposed water transfers upstream of Bangladesh. The clean-up plan if implemented would improve the water quality reducing nutrient loads entering Bangladesh. The water transfers would have a major effect, if implemented in full, significantly reducing flows into the delta system and the Bay of Bengal.

Impacts of climate change and socio-economic scenarios on flow and water quality of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna (GBM) river systems: low flow and flood statistics. P. G. Whitehead et al.

Dynamic modeling of the Ganga river system: impacts of future climate and socio-economic change on flows and nitrogen fluxes in India and Bangladesh, P. G. Whitehead et al.

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Key Areas of WRA Expertise