Why managing water on site is best left to outside experts

Chances are good that at some point in your mining career you’ve come across water on site which needs to be removed. If so, you’ve likely also faced the conundrum of how to remove it or treat it quickly and cost-effectively.

For many, it comes down to two clear options: buy additional equipment and manage the process in-house, or partner with a water management specialist and borrow their expertise.

It seems like a simple “this or that” decision, but this is not just a capital expenditure versus an operational expenditure discussion.

While purchasing equipment is a good long-term investment for some businesses, particularly if they consistently encounter similar water issues across any number of sites, owning equipment and delivering these services also comes with considerable risk.

In addition, while water management can be predictable in some instances, it’s the ones that aren’t where the benefits of bringing in an expert to take the reins become apparent.

Expect the unexpected

Sometimes managing water is a planned exercise, but there are times when the need to remove or treat water comes as a surprise.

Major weather events can create water hazards on construction sites, and geotechnical studies sometimes reveal contamination that customers weren’t expecting.

For instance, the Bureau of Meteorology has just announced that La Nina has begun in Australia for the first time since 2011 and with it comes potential for a wetter spring and summer than usual, which should provide some respite for a nation coming off a season of bushfires and a prolonged drought.

But La Nina might play havoc with the construction sector locally in the next few months, with torrential downpours more common and harder to predict.

Very few construction businesses have the right equipment available onsite at a moment’s notice, and unpredictable weather patterns combined with other unexpected water discoveries can lead to sites falling behind schedule.

In addition, those without the required equipment more than likely wouldn’t have the necessary experience to deal with those issues.

Most organisations only encounter a need for on-site water management occasionally, and it makes sense to look afield and lean on companies who know what to do regardless of the situation.

It is much more affordable in the short term than purchasing equipment and the additional purchasing expenses (training, storage, and maintenance) are nullified by outsourcing the management of water issues to the experts.

Furthermore, there are a set of assurances which a company can come to expect when outsourcing water management:

  • Support from trained water technicians and diverse teams of qualified engineers
  • Automated solutions requiring minimal training and customer input
  • Water flow analysis to inform pump selection; water bypass design; and the impact of dewatering on construction and neighbouring assets
  • Access to ancillary support services like temporary works to prevent groundwater seepage
  • Detailed laboratory testing to determine water quality and optimal water treatment methodology
  • Detailed reports and samples to confirm discharge water quality
  • Confidence that water treatment results will meet all requirements and stand up to scrutiny

Of course, there are nuances to consider when it comes to outsourcing, and companies need to undertake due diligence and research which company – or companies – can best help and will be ready to go in a pinch.

The power of one PO

When designing a water management solution companies will need to weigh up working with one supplier, against outsourcing individual project deliverables to individual providers.

When customers are faced with this choice, oftentimes they find it much easier to work with a single supplier  who can deliver a reliable, turnkey solution, with the added benefit of reducing as much unnecessary admin as possible through the creation of just one purchase order (PO) for the entire water management project rather than multiple POs for several companies.

This approach also gives customers the assurance that when issues arise there will be no finger pointing among organisations – issues will simply be resolved.

Water management can be a complex process, requiring a diverse set of specialist skills and experience.

Some companies will be tempted to buy equipment and build the expertise, particularly if their water management needs can be somewhat predictable.

But for many, outsourcing water management rather than buying the requisite equipment makes the most sense.

In doing so, companies can avoid the hassle and expense that comes with equipment ownership: the time and expertise to manage water issues: the investment in maintenance and process management: and accountability for the overall success of the solution.

Furthermore, streamlining the approach with a single turnkey solution ensures additional benefits, such as reduced admin, that will be felt everywhere from the back office to the site.

Rafi Tchopourian is Coates Hire general manager – engineering solutions.

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