School of Civil Engineering

Projects in environmental engineering

Project 1. Urban lakes – Hydrodynamics, water quality and groundwater exchanges

Supervisor:             Dr Badin Gibbes b.gibbes@uq.edu.au

Groundwater can act as both an inflow and an outflow to an urban lake system depending on the local hydrogeology and climate cycles. These groundwater exchanges, whilst not widely investigated, are thought to represent a significant portion of the annual water budget for urban lakes. Preliminary investigations of the main stormwater lake on the University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus suggest that groundwater may be an important water input to the lake. This project aims to continue the development of an integrated lake monitoring system to better characterise groundwater exchanges in this system. Students will be responsible for the collection and analysis of a range of environmental monitoring data to develop a refined water budget for the lake. A key focus of the project will be the use of salinity and radon sampling techniques [1-4] to better characterise groundwater exchange over a range of time scales. The project will also seek to investigate the implications of projected future climate change and provide information to assist the University’s future water management planning process. Students will gain experience with a range of state-of-the-art environmental monitoring systems. The project will allow students to gain experience with a range of state-of-the-art environmental monitoring systems.

Project Duration  - This project is suitable for groups of 2-3 students and can be tailored to suit either a one semester project (CIVL4560) or a two semester research thesis (CIVL4580-82)
Available to  - Civil, Chemical and Environmental Engineering students
Prerequisite  - A working knowledge of Matlab (or the ability to rapidly acquire these skills) would also be advantageous

References
[1] Cartwright I., Hofmann H., Smyth B. and Gilfedder B. (2014) ‘Understanding parafluvial exchange and degassing to better quantify groundwater inflows using 222Rn: The King River, southeast Australia’, Elsevier, vol. 403, no. 1, pp. 48-60.
[2] Cook P.G. and Herczeg A.L. (2000) Environmental Tracers in Subsurface Hydrology, Springer Science, New York.
[3] Cook P.G. (2012) ‘Estimating groundwater discharge to rivers from river chemistry surveys’, Hydrological Processes, vol. 27, no 25, pp. 3694 – 3707.
[4] Healy R.W. and Scanlon B.R. (2010) Estimating Groundwater Recharge, Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom.

 

Project 2. Urban lakes – Simulating water quality in urban lake systems

Supervisor:             Dr Badin Gibbes b.gibbes@uq.edu.au

Urban lakes confer many benefits upon their local communities however maintenance of acceptable water quality over the long term has proven to be a significant challenge [1, 2]. Numerical models of these lakes are increasingly used to help planners, engineers and water resource managers to understand the drivers of poor water quality in constructed urban water bodies, however the performance of these models still requires testing. This research project aims to develop and test a coupled hydrodynamic and water quality model of the main stormwater lake on the University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus. A key focus will be the use of the model to investigate the influence of water circulation patterns and thermal stratification on water quality. The project will also seek to apply the model to investigate the implications of projected future climate change and provide information to assist the University’s future water management planning process. The project will allow students to develop skills in the use of modelling software [3, 4] that is widely applied in the engineering industry. Students’ will also have the opportunity to contribute to field monitoring programs as part of the project

Project Duration  - This project is suitable for groups of 2-3 students and can be tailored to suit either a one semester project (CIVL4560) or a two semester research thesis (CIVL4580-82)
Available to  - Civil, Chemical and Environmental Engineering students
Prerequisite  - Students will require knowledge from CIVL3150 and CIVL3141. Students are also encouraged to be concurrently enrolled in CIVL4140. A working knowledge of Matlab (or the ability to rapidly acquire these skills) would also be advantageous

References
[1] Bayley M. Weber T. and Newton D. (2007) A Review of Water Quality and Maintenance Costs of Constructed Water Bodies in Urban Areas of South East Queensland. Report prepared for the South East Queensland Healthy Waterways Partnership, Brisbane, Australia 29p. Electronic copy available at: http://healthywaterways.org
[2] Water by Design (2012) Urban Lakes Discussion Paper. Managing the Risk of Cyanobacterial Blooms. Healthy Waterways Limited (HWL), Brisbane, Australia. Electronic copy of document available at www.waterbydesign.com.au/urbanlakes
[3] TuFlow FV software package available at: http://www.tuflow.com/Tuflow%20FV.aspx
[4] Delft3D Suite available at: http://oss.deltares.nl/web/delft3d


 

Project 3. Water supply reservoirs – Implications of future climate shifts

Supervisor:             Dr Badin Gibbes b.gibbes@uq.edu.au

Variations in climate represent a significant risk for the planning and management of future water infrastructure. Establishing suitable sets of time-series data that describe a range of possible future climate scenarios (e.g., wet, dry, changes in storm intensity and duration) will be essential to developing future sediment and nutrient budgets. Simply extrapolating past trends to forecast future conditions is not a viable option due to the complexity of the climate system [1] and the invalidation of the stationarity assumption [2]. There are a number of challenges involved in deriving representative time-series data (e.g., rainfall, evapotranspiration) that are able to be used within water resource modelling systems. Many past approaches have used past climate time-series (often repeated to extend the length of the simulation period) and applied simple regular increments of change in a given variable (e.g., rainfall, evapotranspiration, air temperature and relative humidity) to provide a representation of the change or shift in climate [3, 4] over a given duration. This approach is widely and successfully applied in some applications however the predicted shift in frequency of rain events under different future climate scenarios is not adequately represented in the constructed time-series data. This research project will attempt to address this information gap by using the information currently provided via the CSIRO’s OzClim (see: http://www.csiro.au/ozclim/home.do) in combination with various methods have been developed for other purposes [5-7] to explore the potential changes in catchment runoff and the stratification/de-stratification cycle in water supply reservoirs.

Project Duration  - This project is suitable for groups of 2-3 students and can be tailored to suit either a one semester project (CIVL4560) or a two semester research thesis (CIVL4580-82)
Available to  - Civil, Chemical and Environmental Engineering students
Prerequisite  - Students will require knowledge from CIVL3150 and CIVL3141. Students are also encouraged to be concurrently enrolled in CIVL4140. A working knowledge of Matlab (or the ability to rapidly acquire these skills) would also be advantageous

References
[1] Hennessy K, Clarke J, Whetton P and Kent D (2012) An introduction to internally consistent climate projections, The Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, CSIRO and the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology, 16p. Available at: http://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/
[2] Milly PCD, Betancourt J, Falkenmark M, Hirsch RM, Kundzewicz ZW, Lettenmaier DP, Stouffer RJ (2008) Stationarity Is Dead: Whither Water Management?, Science 319, 573-574.
[3] Jones RN and Page CM, (2001) Assessing the risk of climate change on the water resources of the Macquarie river catchment. In: Ghassemi P., Whetton P, Little R, and Littleboy M (eds) (2001) Integrating Models for Natural Resources Management Across Disciplines, Issues and Scales, MODSIM 2001 International Congress on Modelling and Simulation, Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand, Canberra.
[4] Jones RN and Durack PJ (2005) Estimating the Impacts of Climate Change on Victoria’s Runoff using a Hydrological Sensitivity Model, CSIRO Project report: A project commissioned by the Victorian Greenhouse Unit Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, CSIRO Atmospheric Research, Melbourne, 50 pp.
[5] Heneker TM, Lambert MF and Kuczera G (2001) A point rainfall model for risk-based design, Journal of Hydrology 247: 54-71.
[6] Lambert M and Kuczera G (1998) Seasonal generalized exponential probability models with application to interstorm and storm durations, Water Resources Research, 24(1), 143-148.
[7] Wu S-J, Yang J-C and Tung Y-K (2006) Identification and stochastic generation of representative rainfall temporal patterns in Hong Kong territory, Stochastic Environmental Research and Risk Assessment, 20: 171-183. Doi: 10.1007/s00477-005-0245-5.

 

Project 4. Contaminant transport in an unconfined coastal aquifer

Supervisor:             Dr Badin Gibbes b.gibbes@uq.edu.au

Coupled groundwater and surface water models are routinely applied in the engineering industry to understanding the transport and fate of contaminants in groundwater systems. In the Australian context most contamination sites are located in shallow unconfined aquifers in coastal settings. These aquifers are usually connected to tidally influenced drainage channels and/or the adjacent coastal water body. This in turn can lead to complex density-dependent mixing between the saline coastal waters (including saltwater in the site drainage channels) and fresh groundwater that is derived from site rainwater recharging the shallow aquifer (Robinson et al, 2006, 2007; Werner et al, 2013). Understanding these complex mixing processes and their subsequent implications for residence time of groundwater in these aquifers is an important first step towards better understanding the fate of potential contaminants. This aim of this project is to develop and test a numerical model of flow and contaminant transport at a typical coastal field site that has been the subject of past chemical contamination. The project will allow students to develop skills in the use of freely available modelling software [4, 5] that is widely applied in the engineering industry. Students’ will also have the opportunity to contribute to field monitoring programs as part of the project.

Project Duration  - This project is suitable for groups of 2-3 students and can be tailored to suit either a one semester project (CIVL4560) or a two semester research thesis (CIVL4580-82)
Available to  - Civil, Chemical and Environmental Engineering students
Prerequisite  - Students will require knowledge from CIVL3150 and CIVL3141. Students are also encouraged to be concurrently enrolled in CIVL4140. A working knowledge of Matlab (or the ability to rapidly acquire these skills) would also be advantageous.

References
[1] Robinson C, Gibbes B and Li L (2006) “Driving mechanisms for groundwater flow and salt transport in a subterranean estuary”, Geophysical Research Letters, 33, L03402, doi:10.1029/2005GL025247
[2] Robinson C, Gibbes B, Carey H and Li L (2007) “Salt-freshwater dynamics in a subterranean estuary over a spring-neap tidal cycle”, Journal of Geophysical Research, 112, C09007, doi:10.1029/2006JC003888
[3] Werner A.D, Bakker M, Post V.E.A, Vandenbohede A, Lu C, Ataie-Ashtiani B, Simmons C.T. and Barry D.A. (2013) “Seawater intrusion processes, investigation and management: Recent advances and future challenges”, Advances in Water Resources, 51, 3-26.
[4] PMWin application for MODFLOW, details available at: http://www.pmwin.net/index.htm
[5] mflab environment for MODFLOW suite groundwater modelling. Details available at: https://code.google.com/p/mflab/