Introduction A monitoring program is an essential toolto considerwhenimplementing an adaptive environmental management (AEM).It providesdata that can assess and evaluate the outcomes of managementdecisionsand subsequentlymake the AEM more effective over time, beyond otherbenefits. This project aims to design an adaptive monitoring program to assessthe sewage outfall processes and its impacts on the environmentandstakeholders with the objective of provide effective information tomanagement board in order to direct decisions to sustainability. It is projected to take into consideration new conditions and questionsthat may arise in the future without compromising the trustworthiness of thedata record. ”(Lindenmayer 2011) Heading & Situation The hypothetical situation studied in this project is in regards to asewage outfall operation located in Noosa, Southeastern Queensland. The operation of the plant reckon with the prior treatment of sewagebefore disposal in the ocean. Furthermore, the plant considers dischargeperiodicity in order to ensure that the sewage is being released only when thetide is coming out. However, according to the hypothetical briefing, the sewage outfallproject also forecast a population growth of approximately 3% per year overthe next 13 years. This consideration affects directly the storing capacity ofthe treated water before it can be discharged. Background Noosa is situatedamong severalareas with ecological importancesuchas national parks, wetlands and lakes. In these areas there aremangrovesand seagrass along the Noosa river besides some important endangeredspecies, both animal and plants(Noosa Community Environment Trust 2012). It is also close to Great Sandy straight, considered a wetlandinternationally important, protected under The Environment Protection andBiodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC 1999) Among the 89 Australian bioregions, the southeastern Queenslandbioregion has greater than 50% of threatened ecosystems (NLWRA 2002b). Therefore Noosa is a place with unique ecosystems’ characteristicsand its preservation must be considered seriously. Noosa’s community is engaged with the preservation of theenvironment and its sustainability through Noosa’s council and privateorganizations that provide different programs to teach the community how topreserve the environment (ARIES 2007; Noosa Biosphere 2009). They aim
toachieve a sustainable interaction with the environment. Noosa region, which includes Noosa Heads, Noosaville, Tewantin,Peregian and Sunshine beach, has approximately 38,000 habitants and it willgrow an average of 3% annually in the next years (Office of Economic andStatistical Research 2011; SunROC 2004). However, during the holiday peak season, Noosa population increasesto approximately 15000 visitors per year (Noosa Biosphere 2009). The preservation of the environment is a key concern for the localgovernment and community not only because of the ecological value of theregion but also in regards to its economic stability and cultural values. The core industries in Noosa are Property and Business, Retail,Construction, Accommodation, Cafes and Restaurants (Noosa BusinessSurvey 2004).These industries represent more than 50% of Noosa economyand they are narrowlylinked to tourism and related industries. In regards to the legislation, there are numerousregulations fromCommonwealth, Queensland state and Sunshine City council, that themonitoring program must be in compliance with. The local environment is managed and preserved under the CoastalProtection and Management Act 1995, which describes policies for managingand protecting coastal resources (EDO, 2010). Also, the Queensland’s Environment Protection Act,which is mainlyconcerned with pollution, aims to achieve ecological sustainable developmentin Queensland (Environment Protection Act, 2004). It empowers the Department of Environment & Heritage to formulateEnvironmental Protection Policies (EPPs) and additionally determines tools,as the South East Queensland Natural Resource Management Plan whichsets numerous environmental targets which must be achieved by 2031(DERM 2009). As Noosa region is both important for leisure and tourism, not only thequality of the water, but also its appearance is a significant characteristic toconsider. Approach and Methodology The first steps are defining questions and identify targets that willunderpin the monitoring program. The main questions are related to whatimpacts the sewage outfall will cause in the environment and to thestakeholders, what is the extension and probability of these impacts and whatare the targets and what needs to be monitored. The objectives of the monitoring program are to be in conformity withthe Australian legislation, respect stakeholder interests and be sustainable.For this reason, the monitoring program output must provide the necessaryinformation to decision makers as well as stakeholders.
Therefore it is indispensable to define the baseline conditions, whichare the current characteristics of the region based on background informationgiven. A clear baseline condition is important because it defines the initialstate of the environment and community to be used as a parameter during theexamination of the data collected during the monitoring program. When establishing the baseline it is fundamental to analyze long-termtrends in water quality conditions in order to comprehend natural cycles andthe influence of factors not related to the sewage but can influence the waterquality results.(Macdonald, 2009) Nowadays, the Noosa river is classified as B, good in quality andNoosa catchment is classified as A-, as shown in Health Waterways reportcard . Moreover, it is possible to obtain water quality indicators from the lastten years (Hunter 2009). Subsequently, a review of environment factors (REF) has beenestablished in order to list and weigh the impacts that the sewage outfall maycause, it analyses the likely environmental consequences of the impacts. Thistool was chosen since its application is straightforward and fast, even thoughthe REF does not analyze impacts in depth (Appendix I). The main issues related to the operation of the sewage outfall wereessentially surveyed in the literature and they are described in the followingparagraphs. (NSW Department of Commerce 2003; Armstrong 1996; EdParnell 2003; McLean 1991; Otway 1996; Fagan 1992) The rawsewage receives primary treatment at the plant andsubsequentlyis released in the marine ecosystems.Since the area of thedischarge is close to the river mouth, the timing of the discharge canrepresent a risk of pollution spread since the sewage plume can betransported up river depending on the tide and currentand other physicalelements as wind. In order to evaluate the direct impactsof sewage’s release on theenvironment, it is necessary to understand the quality and composition of theeffluent after the treatment process. The sewage effluentcontains nutrients as nitrogen and phosphorous,pathogens and occasionally toxic substances can also be encountered insamples. Theenlargement of inorganic chemicals nutrients such as phosphorousand nitrogen in the water can stimulate growth of algae and consequentlycause eutrophication. This event results in aloss of oxygen due to plantdecomposition and also modifies the water turbidity.
The consequences are possible damage in sensitive environments asseagrass (which can be found in Noosa river) by impeding the penetration oflight(Prepas 2003), extermination of species that depend on oxygen andaesthetic deterioration as consequence of suspended particles and odor. Likewise, the organic matter released in the ocean consumes part ofthe oxygen available in the ecosystems, which represents a risk to somesensitive species, which depend on oxygen to survive. The contamination of beach bathing waters with fecal matter, which isthe source of organisms responsible for waterborne diseases,impacts publichealth. Furthermore, sewage can contain heavy metals and persistent organicpollutants that bioaccumulate throughout the trophic chainand can causechronic effects to human health with long period contact at lowerconcentrations of these components. In regard the socioeconomic risks, the decline of water quality canleads to weakening in tourism and other related industries, since the mainattractions in Noosa are the beaches. Also, fisheries industry can be affectedby the water quality andin thelong-term the consequences can lead to aneconomic downturn. The Noosa community considers the beach extremely significant fortheir social life as they useit as a place for leisure and/or sports activities. It ispart of their local culture. Therefore the sewage outfall can also have a socialimpact. If the Noosa river is affected by pollution it can affect the land usewhich is represented by horticulture irrigation, residential and rural use. The selection of the indicators was done based on the REF analysis inview of the probability of the risk to occur. According to the REF table, theindicators must monitor the water quality, instabilities in the sensitiveenvironments, the dispersion of the sewage and stakeholders perceptions.(appendix) The indicators can be divided in three main groups: Chemicophysical,Biological and Socioeconomic, and some of them must be chosen due togovernment guidelines(National Water Quality Management Strategy;Queensland Water Quality Guidelines 2009). They are the following: Dissolved oxygen Electrical conductivity: to evaluate the degree of salinity Nitrogenand it compounds which include nitrate, nitrite and ammonia. Phosphorus pH
Turbidity Water temperature Chlorophyll a Biochemical oxygen demand The chemical and physical indicatorslisted above can analyze the loadof nutrients that is being released and measure the impacts related to it.However, they only describe the water situation during a short period of time.It is an instantaneous measure that represents a lack of at least one indicatorto measure the cumulative impacts caused during a certain period of timeafter the commissioning of the sewage outfall. For this type of analysis, a biological indicator,such asbenthicinvertebrate and macro invertebrates, is usually preferred because despite ofthe moderate toleration to stress in the environment, they are sensitive todisturbances and they have limit mobility (Bioindicators: Using Organisms toMeasure Environmental Impactsn.d.) that helps identifying the location wherethey were in contact with pollutants. Bioindicatorscan provide information about the existence of toxicelements as heavy metals and provide bioaccumulation taxa and additionallyit is possible to correlate the amount of organic matter with the increase of thebenthic invertebrate population(Cardoso 2007). Even though the costs of biological monitoring are higher compared tochemico-physical monitoring, examining the biota is the only method whereinis possible to obtain reliable information about the ecosystems health overtime. Taking into account the value of the ecosystem in Noosa and thenecessity to preserve it, this analysis must be used. Another fundamental biological indicator is the bacteria EscherichiaColi that is inexpensive to analyze and can determine the presence ofpathogens organisms in the water. E. Coli analysis is necessary due to therisk of contamination in bathing beaches which can affect the population’shealth (NHMRC 2003). The correlation of indicators can make the monitoring program moreeffective as there are other aspects in the environment that can influence theindicators results such as stormwater that usually increase turbidity, bacterialevels and nutrients parameters. Likewise, if a correlation between indicators is considered, a low-pricedindicator can be measured more times and in case of anoutlier result, anothermore specific indicator can be used. For instance, the E coli bacteria is relatedto turbidity, therefore E. coli test must be taken only if the turbidity test has afavorable result (Mossa 2006). In regard socioeconomic indicators, it is necessary to obtain data aboutthe performance of thepotentially affected industries in the region (fisheriesand tourism) as well as health data.
The establishment of a social program that can work directly with thefisheries in order to gather information that can measure the overall impact ofthe outfall commissioning. It is also possible to get some information from theQueensland government at the department of agriculture, fisheries andforestry which can provide commercial and recreational fishing data. After defining indicators, a pilot study must be implemented in order toascertain the frequency, timing, and location of the sample collection, as wellas to answer some issues that the REF process could not analyze. There are questions in regards to how the indicators may work in thisspecific environment, how the ecosystems are interconnected and what arethe impacts that one affected ecosystem can cause on other ecosystem. Additionally, there is no certainty in regard to how many tourists opt tovisit Noosa exclusively because of the beach and therefore, it is not clear theextension of the impact in this industry. In this case, a survey is necessary toclarify the impacts on tourism providing quantitative information that can alsobe applied in a cost benefit analysis. The pilot study basically consists in data collection from previousoceanographic studies, water quality measurements required by law,indicators and cost analysis. In Noosa area, there is a monitoring program to analyze water quality,the results of these program can be easily found at the Waterways ScientificServices website which is a branch of the Queensland EnvironmentalProtection Agency and used as reference. The physical characteristics of the area is important as a way toestimate the locomotion of the sewage plume and consequently definesample locations. Information about current, tides and wind can be found atseveral sources such as Australian government bureau of methodology andIntegrated marine observing system. The oceanographic data can be analyzed by running models that takesinto account local currents and tides, so that is possible to define a securetime to release the sewage and the amount to release it. Modeling of the tidesand current can predict with a certain confidence how the behavior of thesewage discharged is in different conditions. Additionally, with this tool it ispossible to study the consequences of the population growth over a certainperiod. Knowing the plume dispersion, it is possibleto select the samplinglocations. At this time, it is important to define control locations, as they arerelatively close to the discharge area but at the same time they are notimpacted by the sewage(Scanes 1995). Therefore, the results obtained fromthese locations can be compared to affected areas in order to better analyzethe impact of the outfall. It is required short-term water-quality investigations with smaller
intervals in order to be able to analyze correctly the information gathered, toavail some trends and define a sampling frequency more effectively(MacDonald 2009). Therefore, statistical analysis is necessary because they help thedefinition of quantity of samples that are necessary to the monitoring programtaking into account the level of confidence desired by the management andstakeholders. They also can identify trends in sampling results (Clark 2010). Regarding the community as a stakeholder, a social program can buildan online website with the objective of establishing communication with thecommunity to inform about results and activities that it is being implementing.Additionally it can bea way for the community to contribute with the monitoringprogram by giving information in regards unusual aesthetics parameters aswater color and odor or even to inform an increase of gastroenteritis cases inthe area. After designing the methodology, an appropriate cost benefit analysismust be prepared because the determination of sampling frequency is linkedto the funding available. The cost benefit analysis must consider the cost of each samplinglocations, the number of samples per each location, sampling analysis,transportation, staff and the cost of data management and reporting. Amethod to reduce the cost of sampling is work in partnershipwith local council monitoring programs or any other private program as longas the quality and confidence can be assured. It is also a form to establishconnections with stakeholders. Some of the research suggested should be applied frequently with theobjective of identify new issues and understand the development ofstakeholders interests and hence improve the monitoring program approach. In order to ensure the quality and representativeness of the samples itis essential to establish a QA/QC (Quality assurance/Quality control) programthat contains guidelines and methodologies. It is necessary to use a certified laboratory to make sure that all QA/QCrelated to sample analysis have been done and to estipulate an easymethodology for samples so that the sampling procedures can be performedby non-technical people. The use of control sites is also an appropriate method to compare thedata gathered with results from the background conditions at the same time ofthe other sampling. Control sites can also attest any source of contaminationduring the manipulation/treatment of the samples that can invalidate the entireanalysis. Statistical studies also play an important role in regard to the qualityand confidence of the results. This analysis can assure the result with adetermined standard deviation.
The quality must be assured at the data reporting and managementprocess by using checklists and regularly investigating the whole process ofdata acquisition and management. Significantly, any nonconformity of thequality control procedures must be documented and reported to stakeholdersin order to support the interpretation of data. Management & Knowledge Targets All the information gathered must be inputted in a database, and thefirst step of data management is a review and auditing to ensure that the dataavailable is reliable. It’s necessaryto determine whether the data is inaccordance with the stakeholders’ necessity as well as it can identify lacksofinformation and motivate new research and management queries (EffectiveEcological Monitoring 2010). Afterwards, the key information such as status of the water quality ineach location, presence of indicators that are not in compliance withlegislation, and socio-economic analysis must be assembled and correctlydesigned to be easy understandable as most of the stakeholders are nottechnical professionals. The essential data can be provided with graphs and other visualinformation that straightforwardly compare the results achieved with theestablished goals. As referred before, these information can be available to stakeholdersin form of report cards and fact sheets and delivered through website whichcan also propose online surveys with the objective of collecting informationabout the stakeholders and identify some possible improvements. Forinstance, how to show results in a simpler and more effective manner. Limits and Potential Refinements To achieve the sustainability and maintain the program sustainable it isimportant to keep in mind that the final design of the monitoring program is notstatic and it must change over time in order to adapted to new environmentcircumstances and stakeholders needs. Strenuous statistical examination and a conceptual thinking thatecosystems and its monitoring target components may vary over time mustsupport the adaptive monitoring program concept. Therefore, pilot studies should be constantly studied as they can clarifychanges that are occurring in the environment and bring more questions andissues not supposed previously that reinforces the importance of frequentlystudy the monitoring program itself.
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Appendix I – Evaluate the likely significance of potential impacts on the environment Potential Potential Significance Potential Significance Considering the Significance IMPACTS considering the level of Adverse Considering extent of Impacts on the Nature of impacts Environmentally Impacts Sensitive AreasPhysical & Pollution Air Impact Low Low Low Water Impacts High High Low Soil Impacts - - - Noise and VibrationImpacts - - -Biological Fauna High High High Flora High High High Ecological High High HighResource Use Community Response High Low Medium Natural Resourses High Low LowCommunity Social Impacts High Low Low Economic Impacts High Low Medium Heritage, aesthetic, culturalImpacts Medium Low Low Land Use Impacts High Low Low Transportation Impacts - - -Activity as a Role High Low Medium