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Why managing water on-site is best left to outside experts

The chances are good that at one point in their construction careers, some Inside Waste readers have encountered water on-site which needs to be removed.

According to Coates Hire general manager – engineering solutions, Rafi Tchopourian, what usually follows is the conundrum of how to remove it or treat it quickly and cost-effectively.

For many, he told Inside Waste, 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.

“Although it can seem like a simple ‘this or that’ decision, it is more than 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,” Tchopourian said.

In addition, he added that while water management can be predictable in some instances, it’s the exception where the benefits of bringing in an expert to take the reins become apparent.

Expect the unexpected

While managing water is usually a planned exercise, Tchopourian explained there are times when the need to remove or treat water comes as a surprise. These included major weather events that can create water hazards on construction sites, and geotechnical studies that 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,” Tchopourian said.

“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. This 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.

He added that there are also 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, he advised that 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.

According to Tchopourian, this approach also gives customers the assurance that when issues arise there will be no finger pointing among organisations and issues will be resolved simply.

“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,” he concluded.