Water scientist under the pump

AS the council-appointed, AGL-funded, scientist tasked with carrying out key water studies in the next 18 months, there is no doubt Kate Johnson will be feeling a little pressure.

Among the four significant tasks Kate will complete in the next year a half is a baseline water study of the Gloucester valley, a produced water study and a flood study of the Gloucester and Avon rivers.

She will also be required to peer review studies completed by AGL as it moves to begin stage one of its Gloucester Gas Project.

The findings Kate comes up with during her tenure as the valley’s water scientist are sure to be heavily scrutinised, not just by council and AGL, but also by the Gloucester public and those who both support and oppose coal seam gas extraction.

“You could say I’ve hit the ground running,” Kate said.

“But in saying that, I’ve already been made to feel really welcome, even though it’s only my third week in the job.”

Kate is a graduate of the University of New England and most recently has been based in the Port Stephens area.

She has significant experience in areas of water quality, treatment processes, development compliance in local government and floodplain risk management having worked at Armidale, Mackay in Queensland and Newcastle.

Kate has been working primarily in local government since 2005.

Council’s Environment and Sustainability manager Graham Gardner says Ms Johnson’s task is not without challenges. 

While AGL has provided the funding for the position, council is the body that will oversee each of the studies as well as the peer review.

“The community is obviously really keen to get good information on any impacts to its precious water resources,” Mr Gardner said.

“For the past two to three years it’s what they’ve been calling out for.”

Mr Gardner said combined with the findings of a bioregional assessment funded by the federal government, the studies would provide the most complete water mapping of the Gloucester region ever compiled.

“AGL came to the table because they wanted to plug some gaps. We viewed it as a really good opportunity to get things done,” he said.

One of the studies Mr Gardner feels will benefit the community most is the flood study of the Gloucester and Avon rivers.

“Because of budgetary restraints previous flood studies have only really focused on the urban interface,” he said.

“This study will be a nice addition to public knowledge. It will give us lines on the map about anticipated flood levels and where they are likely to hit as well as the potential risks to infrastructure.”

Community update

GLOUCESTER residents are invited to attend a briefing on the work completed to date as part of the bioregional assessment of the valley.

Council will also provide information on the studies it is completing as part of its agreement with AGL.

The briefings will be held on November 28 from 2pm to 4pm in the council chambers and from 7pm to 9pm at the Senior Citizens Centre.

Members of the bioregional assessment working group will be in attendance along with council staff. Both sessions will include question and answer components.

Water scientist Kate Johnson faces a busy 18 months.

Water scientist Kate Johnson faces a busy 18 months.