Sewage outfalls, storm water overflows, plant releases, agricultural production effluents—water bodies in urban areas are subjected to many polluted discharges. When these water bodies are also used for recreational purposes, the safety of the population is at risk. Ensuring safe discharges into recreational water is therefore crucial for human health. Meeting water quality standards and providing easily accessible and timely information to the public is a very real and current need.

Challenge

Local bathing locations inside the Waitematā Harbour were exposed to risks of contamination and there was insufficient data on pollution levels and currents. General public scepticism about the quality of water was escalating in the political realm as well as in the media.

Solution

The development of an integrated Bathing Water Forecast System to inform audiences about the impacts of contaminant overflows in and around their harbour. With this system, information and warnings about water quality can now be made easily accessible across multiple media platforms.

Solution highlights (short):

  • Constant monitoring of the harbour’s water and prediction of the concentration of Enterococci bacteria
  • Creation of models for predictive forecasts by utilising a high-resolution 3D hydrodynamic model to simulate tidal and wind driven currents
  • Generating flow and bacteria concentration time series based on observed and predicted rainfalls time series
  • Carrying out of model simulations every six hours

Results

Better water quality information available

Client is informed on impacts of pollutants in a more accurate and timely manner

Assessment of intervention options

The model allows the client to assess the benefits of potential intervention options

Improved public dialogue

The accessibility of water quality data has resulted in more transparent communication


‘DHI’s solution overcame the limitations of monitoring programmes with its ability to predict water quality outcomes ahead of time. This allows us to provide the public with water quality information and associated health risks just before they enter the water. Previously, with the monitoring only approach, the best we could do was advise the public about water quality retrieved two days before they wanted to go in for a swim.’

Dr Martin Neale
Safeswim lead and independent environmental scientist


The full story

Challenge

Ensuring safe discharges into recreational water

In addition to the local population, flocks of tourists enjoy sea-sides, rivers and lakes across the world each year. Tourism is the world’s third largest industry and the prime economic sector in some regions. It cannot be compromised by health incidents or concerns. Meeting water quality standards and providing easily accessible and timely information to the public is a very real and current need.

Contaminant Plume Tracker. © DHI



Sewage outfalls, storm water overflows, plant releases, agricultural production effluents—water bodies in urban areas are subjected to many polluted discharges. When these water bodies are also used for recreational purposes, the safety of the population is at risk. Ensuring safe discharges into recreational water is therefore crucial for human health.

A central Waitematā Harbour water quality forecast model, underpinned by a 3D hydrodynamic model was developed to provide water quality forecasts to inform risk for recreational activity from overflows at central Auckland beaches from Point Chevalier to St Heliers Bay. Predictions from the model are presented as part of Safeswim. Safeswim is a collaboration between Council Group, Surf Lifesaving Northern Region and the Auckland Regional Public Health Service.

Solution

Calculating the concentration of Enterococci bacteria

The system constantly monitors the harbour’s water and predicts the concentration of the indicator bacteria Enterococci at specified locations along the water course in the harbour. To help forecast frequent pollution threats, DHI also collects meteorological data from forecast suppliers and runs hydrodynamic models to retrieve data. All of this information is then used to create models to demonstrate predictive forecasts using MIKE Powered by DHI software, by utilising a high-resolution 3D hydrodynamic model, MIKE 3 FM. The model simulates tidal and wind driven currents within the harbour.

During a rainfall event, calculated loads of Enterococci are discharged within the hydrodynamic model and the resulting transport, dilution and inactivation of the Enterococci plume are simulated as a tracer. Within the Waitematā Harbour, the main sources of pollutants to the harbour are combined wastewater and stormwater outfalls as well as freshwater inflows.


An animation used by the Auckland Council to predict water safety and quality for its SafeSwim website, showing raw sewage sloshing along Auckland's beaches for days after rain.
© DHI


Providing forecasts ahead of time

The model is currently configured to provide forecasts three days into the future and was developed to address some of the short comings of traditional recreational water quality monitoring. MIKE OPERATIONS is the platform which operates the forecast system. It is a software product designed for model-based forecast services and for online operational control of river systems, water collection systems and water distribution systems.

Every six hours, MIKE OPERATIONS downloads data from required sources. It then converts the data to a MIKE format, generating the flow and bacteria concentration time series based on the observed and predicted rainfalls time series.

Forecast wind and solar radiation data are provided and a three day precipitation forecasts with an hourly interval are provided by Met Service for selected locations within the Auckland region. Observed rainfall for appropriate rain gauges is provided by the local council authority.

Water quality information displayed at Mission Bay Beach, Auckland. © DHI



Model simulations are carried out every six hours using the latest three-day forecasts of precipitation, solar radiation and wind. To ensure that the model captures significant rain events, the model carries out a simulation using measured rainfall data (a ‘nowcast’) before proceeding into the forecast for the next three days. This method ensures where a rainfall event was forecast but did not occur, the predicted bacteria load to the harbour is not included in the next forecast.

Results

Greater information about water quality is now available, which in turn may help to reduce the impact of pollutant discharges, meet regulatory standards, monitor water quality and provide users with timely information.

Water quality predictions are also accessible for beach safety throughout 84 beaches within the Auckland Region over the summer bathing season. The majority of these are through a regression type model forecast, with nine central Waitematā Harbour locations from Point Chevalier to Saint Helier’s targeted through DHI’s modelling engines.

The software utilises actual information on meteorological forcings and simulates the fate of the indicator bacteria with precise hydrodynamic models. Hence, the model system can also be used as a highly effective tool to assess and identify the best method to address solutions to maintain water quality and reduce risk of pollution.



About the client

The Auckland Council is the local government council for the Auckland Region in New Zealand. The governing body consists of a mayor and 20 councillors, elected from 13 wards. It is the largest council in Oceania.

The platform created is a collaboration between the client and three other organisations behind the Safeswim initiative. Safeswim is a collaboration between Council Group, Surf Lifesaving Northern Region and the Auckland Regional Public Health Service.


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