The African water sector’s growing need for integrated solutions from multi-disciplinary teams has led to the creation of a Water and Environmental Technology (WET) unit at SRK Consulting, streamlining the company’s capabilities in vital sectors.Underpinning this move is the growing complexity of water management in South Africa and beyond, a field in which SRK has developed considerable expertise over many decades, according to Manda Hinsch, partner and principal scientist at SRK Consulting. The new unit now leverages the experience of the company’s water scientists with the related skills base of its Pretoria strategic business unit (SBU). “While SRK’s wide range of professional disciplines continue to be relevant in their own right, the market today requires a more integrated approach,” said Hinsch. “For instance, our water management expertise is applied in areas from tailings storage facilities (TSFs) to disaster management – and our WET unit reflects that shift.” James Lake, WET SBU partner and principal scientist at SRK Consulting, highlighted that water supply has become a critical issue in Southern Africa – with many clients becoming more proactive about their water management strategies. “The configuration of our new WET unit allows closer collaboration among our professionals with their respective skill sets,” said Lake. He highlighted the value of such teamwork in addressing mine closure, especially in the light of the recent Global Industry Standards on Tailings Management (GISTM).
Hydrology and environmental engineering“In our mine closure planning for TSFs, we are guided by the strong GISTM focus on water management of the facility at closure,” he explained. “This requires a range of inputs from the hydrologists in the WET unit.” This work includes the development of simulated rainfall data to inform the probable maximum flood (PMF) event and to undertake routing of the flood events. They would also develop management plans to limit upgradient runoff flowing onto the facility, as well as develop plans to safely discharge rainfall from the facility. “Future erosion activity over a design life of 300 years also requires geotechnical consideration, with landform evolution modelling by one of our environmental engineers,” he said. “We also provide geochemical inputs to couple with unsaturated flow modelling, to understand the risk of salts leaching from the TSF into groundwater.” He added that information from the WET unit was used in conjunction with stability data developed by other SRK experts – allowing the company’s engineering geology (ENGEO) unit to develop conceptual closure plans.