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Collaborative Water Planning: Groundwater Visualisation Tool Guide

Nolan, Sharna, Tan, Poh-Ling and Cox, Malcolm (2010). Collaborative Water Planning: Groundwater Visualisation Tool Guide<br />. Darwin, NT: Charles Darwin University.

Document type: Research Report
Citation counts: Google Scholar Search Google Scholar

Author Nolan, Sharna
Tan, Poh-Ling
Cox, Malcolm
Title of Report Collaborative Water Planning: Groundwater Visualisation Tool Guide
Publication Date 2010
ISBN 978-1-921576-17-1   (check CDU catalogue open catalogue search in new window)
Publisher Charles Darwin University
Place of Publication Darwin, NT
Total Pages 38
Field of Research 300800 Environmental Sciences
Abstract Executive Summary

The ‘Howard East’ Groundwater Visualisation Tool (GVT) was developed in 2009 as part of the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) ‘Collaborative Water Planning’ project. The Project aimed to support water planning processes by providing best practice guidelines for collaborative planning, based on lessons learned from the trial of various planning tools. These guidelines also drew upon previous work undertaken through retrospective case studies in Queensland and Western Australia.

This is a companion guide to the general case-study report (Nolan 2010). It specifically presents information for water planners considering the use of a GVT for the communities where they work. Based on the experience of a participatory process developed for the Howard East aquifer in rural Darwin, Australia, it provides an overview of the Howard East GVT, the process of development and financial resources that were required. In doing so, this guide aims to give planners the confidence to assess whether a similar application would be useful for their planning situation. The structure adopted for this guide is as follows: why developing a participatory groundwater visualisation model was considered useful; the steps taken for developing that model with community input; the outcomes achieved in the short term; finally a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the process.

This GVT addresses stakeholder concerns identified in an extended stakeholder analysis (Nolan 2009). Within community groups there was a widespread lack of understanding of groundwater systems and processes, leading to misconceptions about the management, extraction amounts and origins of local groundwater resources. Findings also showed that there was a legacy of mistrust of government-driven planning processes as rural residents were concerned that water planning would lead to new charges for domestic bore water. Coupled together, these attitudes had a potential detrimental impact on the willingness and ability of local stakeholders to engage in forthcoming water planning processes.

In response to the analysis the GVT was constructed to communicate hydrogeological dynamics, allowing stakeholders access to common information and aiding mutual understanding in the planning process. The visualisation tool was built on an in-house software package, Groundwater Visualisation System (GVS), developed by the Groundwater Systems Research Group of the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

The Groundwater Visualisation System software uses agency bore-monitoring data, bore drillers’ logs and a range of data sourced from within the local community to construct a visualisation model. Community information used in Howard East was generated through an engagement strategy which encouraged community, stakeholder and agency input into the model at key stages of its development. Stakeholder feedback sourced during the GVT’s development also enabled the tool to be tailored to meet local educational needs, and give stakeholders a sense of ownership of the final product. To facilitate stakeholder and community involvement, project researchers adopted a ‘joint fact finding’ approach that led to the development of a number of activities capable of generating a wide range of community data. Activities included local rainfall data collection by Landcare groups, participatory mapping exercises and interviews held with local bore drillers and community ‘experts’, individual bore surveys, and stakeholder and agency workshops generating feedback. Key stakeholders were also invited to review and give feedback on the accuracy and useability of the model when it was three quarters completed in a series of half-day workshops held at CSIRO, Darwin.

The modelling component took seven months to complete. Updates and project information were disseminated widely through two public meetings, regular electronic newsletters, project information sheets, a dedicated project website, local print and radio channels and information posters displayed in public areas and events. Stakeholder groups were kept informed  through personal communication and meetings which sought specific input. The community information strategy was a real strength of this project, drawing high levels of community engagement in local water planning processes.

A final visualisation model was presented to the Howard East community in a public forum held in early September 2009. Training sessions were also held for invited stakeholders and agency staff in a ‘Training of the trainers’ format, attended by representatives of the Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport (NRETAS), local government, Shire Councils, Landcare groups, Power & Water, local school teachers and bore-drilling representatives. Compact discs housing both the GVT application and training manuals were distributed to trainees for uploading onto community and local government websites. In all cases, trainees nominated themselves as volunteers to assist other community members in learning to use the GVT application, potentially increasing its impact.

Finally, the GVT approach was evaluated with stakeholders and agency staff through staged surveys and a focus group. Results showed that the vast majority of participants considered the model to be a useful educational tool that could improve the ability of the community to make informed decisions about groundwater management. The independence of the model construction by Queensland University of Technology, the treatment of NRETAS as equal to other stakeholders and the involvement of stakeholders throughout the modelling process increased the perceived public ‘trust’ of the model accuracy and increased the willingness of the public to utilise it.

Between August and October 2009, the Howard East GVT was distributed to 15 leading community and local government stakeholders, presented on five local radio programs and uploaded onto four community websites. The model was presented in three public meetings, a water planners’ conference and three half-day stakeholder participation and training sessions. Overall, the research team spent over 120 hours conducting meetings, undertaking mapping exercises with government water planners and community experts and interviewing leading stakeholders. The results of the evaluation suggest that the GVT was useful in bridging gaps in the consultation process, and advanced the planning process through a common understanding of groundwater dynamics, limits to development, and specifically how the drawdown and aquifer recharge interplay over time.

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Created: Mon, 29 Feb 2016, 10:07:37 CST by Marion Farram