Groundwater and a Sustainable Future

Groundwater and a Sustainable Future

ALGA Interview Series

Sagar Adhikari
General Manager – Water

Sustainability is a word we use almost every day to talk about the pursuit of protecting our most valuable natural resources. What opportunities do you see to better maintain groundwater from the impacts of contamination?

When we talk about the concept of sustainability, we need to consider the intergenerational equity of the groundwater reservoir for future generations.

It is critical that when we talk about sustainability, we look at dealing with the legacy issues that are present; and learn the historical lessons to improve on what we know and how we can prevent these issues in the future. For example, as we learn more about each chemical that potentially poses a risk of contamination, we need to grasp the right construction materials and the right containment approaches to prevent infiltration through the groundwater source and potential cross contamination.

I’d also encourage everyone to look for the smartest solution to prevent history from repeating itself and contribute towards more sustainable development. For example, the infrastructure that has been built using modern construction materials such as concrete may prevent infiltration of rainwater and has meant the groundwater table is no longer able to be recharged. Alternatively, can we use brick pavement/hardstand instead of concrete pavement? If we learn from lessons like this, we can find smarter ways to build our cities allowing both progress and the protection of our natural resources, like groundwater.

Throughout your career you’ve worked across a number of engineering, project management and management roles as well as a lecturer in Hydraulics and Hydrology during your time in Nepal. Can you talk about your career to date in both Nepal and Australia?

After completing my Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, I joined a company that specialised in design and construction, incorporating heavily contaminated industrial effluent, which is where I was first introduced to water treatment. As I matured and progressed through my career, I was able to learn about heavily contaminated industrial wastewater and with all the projects I was involved in, I started my teaching career in Nepal at Lumbini Engineering College, where I taught hydrology and hydraulics and fluid mechanics, and all things water-related. My passion for environmental engineering and wastewater treatment plants grew so much when I moved to Australia, where I completed a Master’s of Engineering at the University of Technology Sydney.

While doing my Master’s, I completed a research project called engineered natural treatment system for the sustainable treatment of landfill leachate using an engineered wetlands system.

Throughout my career I have been involved in numerous water based projects and companies such as working for Hunter Water in Newcastle as a water project manager in Grahamstown Water Treatment Plant Upgrade project.

A few project highlights during my many years at Enviropacfic included a groundwater treatment project in Argenton, NSW, several projects related to the infrastructure boom (that started in 2014/15) with a number of tunnel and rail projects and of course the Barangaroo precinct’s remediation projects (2016-2019).

The Barangaroo project involved five treatment plants and one of the treatments delivered 90kL/Hour, and was arguably one of the most complex and one of the largest contaminated groundwater treatment plants of its kind in Australia (and possibly in the world). When you compare the flow of 90kL/hour to drinking water plants – this does not sound significant, however from a treatment process perspective, it was significant given how highly contaminated the water was and given the salt in the water also, this meant the chemistry of the influent water was quite complicated.

I have worked in all levels of management from being a project manager to National Water Manager and then becoming the General Manager of Water at Enviropacific and have grown the water business at Enviropacfic which is recognised for its groundwater treatment expertise and expansion into drinking and wastewater treatment also.

If there was one message that you’d really like to leave with our members, what would that message be?

As I come from a treatment background, I encourage members to look for a sustainable treatment solution and put in the effort to seek the optimum treatment for contaminated land and groundwater.

Credits: Article extracted from Australasian Land & Groundwater Association (ALGA) Cronicle – Published July 2022.

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