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Environmental Impact Assessment For Groundwater Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 5652 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Environmental Impact Assessment , ‘is a process to identify, predict, evaluate, and communicate information about the impacts on the environment of a proposed project and to detail mitigating measures tool prior to project approval and implementation’ (DOE, 1995). Therefore, EIA can be considered as planning tool to assists developers to minimize adverse environmental impacts. It is a process seeks to avoid costly mistakes in project implementation. It can be costly either because of subsequent modification the project required to make it environmentally acceptable or because of the environmental damage that might occur during project implementation. The process is a ‘mandatory requirement under Section 34A of the Environmental Quality Act, 1974 (EQA, 1974) for activities prescribed in the Environmental Quality (Prescribed Activities) (Environmental Impact Assessment) Order, 1987’ (DOE, 1995).

EIA also can be considered as a process which can be used to predict the potential future impacts on the environment, both beneficial and adverse, of a proposed development project. It aims as to ensure that potential problems are foreseen and addressed at an early stage in the project’s planning and design.

A basic requirement of an EIA is to come to grips with the issues. The issue here, within this context, means that the overall concerns or problems which must be addressed if the potential significant adverse environmental effects are to be overcome. Mitigation measures are expected to focus on the effects, rather than tackle the sources of the problems, unless the issues are faced.

Key Issues of Groundwater Supply Projects in Malaysia- Groundwater Abstraction

Sustainable Yield

The most important issues associated with groundwater resource development is the rate of groundwater abstraction relative to the aquifer’s sustainable yield, the rate at which groundwater can be abstracted sustainably. Over abstraction will cause depletion or degradation of the groundwater resource and possibly of the aquifer itself.

Maximum sustainable yields rates are determined by recharge rates and other aspects of the hydrogeological system.

2.2.2 Drawdown

Groundwater level reduction or drawdown is result from abstraction at rates much lower than the sustainable yield. The magnitude and distribution, in area and time, of drawdown largely determines the sale and significance of a number of effects. It is dependent on pumping rates, number and distribution of wells and on aquifer hydraulic characteristics and boundary conditions.

The major effects that related to drawdown are conflicts with the existing groundwater used impacts on surface hydrology, effects on groundwater quality and ground settlement.

Potential Significant Environmental Effects- Groundwater Abstraction

Reduced Depletion and/or Degradation

Over abstraction of groundwater resource is possibly the most important effect potentially associated with groundwater development. Abstraction at a rate higher than average rate of recharge is not sustainable, although possibly justifiable where the benefits of a limited term supply outweigh environmental effects.

It can cause potential adverse effects like degradation of the water resource, aquifer degradation through consolidation or chemical change, aquifer contamination through induced inflows of poor quality water, progressive drawdown which also can lead to increasing pumping costs. It also can cause potential beneficial effects like limited term availability of a water supply.

To avoid all of these, the developer should define the aquifer’s sustainable yield, precisely if the proposed abstraction is large compared with recharge, and abstract at lower than the sustainable yield.

Impacts on Existing Groundwater Users

Drawdown caused by a large abstraction can disrupt or eliminating the availability of groundwater to existing users. Reducing the available drawdown capacity in an existing well may reduce the maximum supply rate and the time over which supply is available.

The drawdown can cause potential adverse effects like disruption of existing groundwater supplies, can reduced the agriculture or industrial activity due to reduced water supply, and can effect human health too due to the reduced water supply. The developer should document existing use and avoid or mitigate reduced available drawdown in existing wells.

Impacts on Surface Hydrology

Groundwater and surface water interact directly in many hydrogeological systems. Groundwater is recharge by and/or discharge to streams, lake, wetlands, and the sea. Reduced groundwater levels and aquifer through flow rates will affect surface water bodies.

These can cause potential adverse effects like reduced stream flows and changes stream flow gain and loss patterns, affecting the quality of the water that flow into streams, affecting the availability and utility of the surface water resource, soil moisture levels also might reduced where groundwater is shallow, and many more. For the developers, they should be able to define groundwater interactions with, and potential effects on, surface hydrology, and design to minimize adverse effects.

Groundwater Quality

Abstraction for supply can affect groundwater quality by changing flow patterns and, particularly, inducing inflows of water of different quality. For example, near coastal area, seawater flows into an aquifer as a result of reduced flows towards the sea will cause the saline intrusion. Groundwater quality also can change when different quality of groundwater from surrounding areas flows as a result of abstraction.

The chance of groundwater quality can bring adverse effects like long term aquifer contamination, limited water utility, can affect public health, and will increased treatment costs. The developer can avoid these by identify and avoid potential groundwater quality problems appropriate site selection, system operation, and by advising and assisting others to control contaminant sources.

Ground Settlement

Groundwater drawdown can result in surface subsidence or settlement where it affects unconsolidated high porosity sediments or where unconsolidated sediments overlie or infill sinkholes or fissures in carbonates sediments.

The potential adverse effects like differential settlement, possibly sudden, weakening or destroying structures; increased flooding risk particularly in floodplain and coastal areas, and can change surface gradients and drainage patterns. What the developer should do is to locate and operate the well system to minimize or distribute evenly potential settlement.



3.1 Construction of Database

Construction of a reliable database is an important pre-requisite for undertaking an EIA study and subsequent project monitoring. EIA predictions depend on understanding cause-effect relationships and the status and changes to the physical, chemical, biological and human characteristics of the environment. The environmental effects are varied and depend on their location and types of development which are associated with key sector projects.

For example, the location of baseline studies needs to be determined by following preliminary assessment work which predicts where effects are likely to occur. The exact location of baseline sampling needs very careful consideration, as these precise locations should also be utilize as monitoring sites during project construction and operation.

For groundwater projects, baseline data is typically collected in the following environmental components:

physical environment

-water balance

-aquifer characteristics

-groundwater quality

ecological environment (if required)

social environment

-water use including all significant downstream users or nearby groundwater use

3.2 Groundwater Baseline Date

3.2.1 Water balance

Water balance data allow calculation of recharge rates and hence provide much of the basic for sustainable yield estimates. For simple confined aquifer system with limited potential for adverse effects on surface hydrology, it may be sufficient to demonstrate that the proposed abstraction is small in comparison with recharge rates. For more complex aquifer system, we need to fully understand the factors that affecting sustainable yield, or for a larger abstraction, where more precise estimates are required, we must calculate more detailed water balance.

3.2.2 Aquifer Characteristic

The aquifer storage coefficients are required to be measured, along with groundwater levels records, for water balance calculations. For drawdown calculation, we need the data of transmissivity, storage coefficients, and boundary conditions.

3.2.3 Groundwater Use

Groundwater well data, along with drawdown calculations, allow estimates of likely changes in well yields. Use data can be used to infer the effects of these changes.

3.2.4 Land Use

To identify potential sources of adverse effects on groundwater quality we required selected land use data. If potentially contaminating industrial, waste management or farming activities occur within the radius of influence of or upgradient of the well then focused groundwater quality monitoring, and perhaps surface water quality monitoring, will be required.

3.2.5 Groundwater Quality

The type and amount of groundwater quality data required will depend on the proposed water use and the nature of potential adverse effects on quality. At a minimum, representative samples throughout the likely well zone of influence should be analyzed for a suggested basic suite of pH and conductivity which indicate major contamination; ammonium which indicate landfill leachate or sewage contamination; nitrate which indicate fertilizer leachate and sewage; E.coli which from sewage; and trace metals from the industrial, urban, and stormwater. If necessary, major cations and anions also need to be measured, to define general groundwater chemical conditions and to allow later tracking of groundwater mixing.

3.2.6 Geological Data

If ground subsidence is identified as a potential effect, then specific geotechnical data will be required to establish the potential nature and extent of effects, like limestone sinkholes. If structures like buildings, roads, pipelines are potentially at risk, then geophysical methods may need to be employed to locate such features.



4.1 Introduction

EIA is fundamentally a study to identify what exists and to predict what changes will result from the project. It only needs to describe the existing environment to the extent that it is relevant to anticipated changes.

A wide variety of prediction procedures exists for most of the primary potential effects but the key requirement is that any prediction should be based on appropriate amount of baseline data. Predictions should take account of natural variability over distance and over time. Evaluation should take account of predictive uncertainty.

4.2 Groundwater Development Impacts

4.2.1 Over abstraction

In an unconfined aquifer, an initial estimate of over abstraction potential may be obtained by comparing annual rainfall over the area of the aquifer with total abstraction, while for confined aquifer, detailed investigation are always required because simple preliminary calculation are not practicable.

Assessment of sustainable yield should be based on a minimum of three years data to provide some appreciation of yield variability. Sustainable yield estimates may be omitted only if the total abstraction is very small so that progressive over abstraction could be confirmed by monitoring before any substantial effects could occur.

4.2.2 Impacts on Existing Groundwater Users

A preliminary estimate of the extent of pumping drawdown, together with a survey of potential users, will define whether any potential exists for conflicts of use.

Evaluation of the significance of any such potential conflicts should consider the effects on the user of reduced maximum pumping rate and duration. The nature of the existing use should also be considered, as disruption of supply foe some uses is likely to be more significant than for others.

4.2.3 Groundwater Quality Degradation

Groundwater quality assessment can usefully be targeted using limited ‘reconnaissance’ analytical suites. Land use surveys can identify key areas of concern. Targeted detailed studies can then focus on those areas.

4.2.4 Ground Settlement

Preliminary assessment of sinkhole risk may be based on any available local records of the frequency and location of sinkholes. Efforts should focus on monitoring and mitigation works, if it assumed that sinkholes will occur wherever limestones overlain by unconsolidated sediments are developed for groundwater supply.



5.1 Introductions

During this stage of the EIA process, possible preventive, remedial or compensatory measures for each of the adverse impacts evaluated as significant. Some mitigation measures that can be considered include:

changing project site, including all that has to do with the project

introducing pollution controls, waste treatment

compensation for loss or damages and/or resettlement

The EIA should define a project activity, the effect arising from that activity, and the specific measures designed to mitigate the effect. In this way, residual impacts, effects which will not be mitigated, will be identified clearly. It is also important to propose mitigatory measures which can and will be implemented by the proponent.

5.2 Mitigation of Pollution and Physical Effects

Mitigation measures to prevent pollution and adverse physical effects are unlimited. For example, for water quality, surface water runoff and waste water can be treated to ensure that all discharges to waste are below Department of Environment guidelines and will not affect the environment.

5.3 Mitigation of Ecological Effects

Mitigation measures for biodiversity issues are limited. For example, appropriate measures for the complete loss of significant habitat and the fauna, is by searching for alternative location. For example, by trade-off, this is the conservation of a similar area, elsewhere, of the lost habitat type; and by conservation of adjacent similar habitats.

5.4 Mitigation of Social Effects

Mitigation measures to prevent adverse social impacts are only possible through media and dialogue with the people who could be potentially affected by the proposed activity.



Egypt lies for its largest part within the temperate zone and the climate varies from arid to extremely arid. The average annual rainfall over Egypt as a whole is only 10 mm. Along the Mediterranean coast, where most of the winter rainfall occurs, rainfall seldom exceeds 200mm/ year and decrease rapidly inland to be almost nil at Cairo. The main source of water in the country is the river Nile that receives annually of water from the Aswan high dam reservoir. Groundwater in the Nile aquifer system, although the almost only renewable groundwater in Egypt, cannot be considered as a resource in itself, because it is only replenished by excess irrigation water diverted from the Nile River. About water are abstracted annually from the southern region for irrigation, domestic and industrial use. Groundwater development in the northern region is restricted due to the effect of seawater intrusion. The main constraints, posed by groundwater situation, on the development in the delta region are:

The risk of inland movement of the fresh/ saline interface.

The necessity to construct extensive land drainage works to evacuate large volumes of brackish water

The pollution of relatively fresh surface drainage water by brackish water from the land drainage system, reducing the opportunities for reuse.

6.1 Hydrogeology of Nile

The Nile delta is a morphotectonic depression open to the Mediterranean Sea in the north. The desert in the surrounding areas, rising to 100 to 500 m above mean sea level, contribute largely to the recharge of the Quaternary aquifer.

The Nile delta aquifer system consists on graded sand and gravel, changing to fine sand and clayey facies in the north. The aquifer is semi-confined by silt in the flood plain. The thickness of the confining layers varies from 0 to 20 m towards the coast. In the desert fringes outside the floodplain the confining layer disappears and the aquifer is generally unconfined. The aquifer is underlain by impervious marine clay and the saturated thickness of the aquifer ranges for 0 to 800 m. The Nile delta aquifer system is recharged essentially through deep percolation of subsurface drainage water and seepage from canals. The average rate of recharge is about 0.8mm/day in the old land and ranges from 1 to 2.5 mm/day in areas irrigated with surface water. Within the Nile aquifer system in the northern part of the delta, rainfall is generally intercepted by the subsurface land drainage system and thus it does not contribute to the recharge of the aquifer. Discharge of groundwater takes place through various means: land drainage, evaporation and evatransportation, and through abstraction. Artificial land drainage networks in the northern part of the delta lower the groundwater table, resulting in upward direction of groundwater leakage, and intercepted by the drainage system.

6.2 Development of the coastal region in relation to seawater intrusion

By the development in the coastal region is believed to result in changes of the hydrological conditions that include the freshwater/saltwater balance. Also, the present of hydrologic conditions in the region have direct impacts on any development. These impacts can be positive or negative. Thus, environmental impact assessments of such developments and conditions have been the subject of several research programs. The results of some of these programs are summarized below:

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Impact of the hydrologic conditions in the northern delta on drainage

In the transition zone where upward leakage occurs from the brackish groundwater huge drainage networks are constructed to evacuate the brackish water that would otherwise severely affect the agricultural lands. Although these networks save large agricultural areas from deterioration of drainage water, thus reducing the volumes of drainage water available for reuse.

Impact of additional groundwater development

Groundwater development in the delta is generally confined to the southern 60% of the delta region. Nevertheless, an inland movement of the freshwater/saltwater interface has been experienced. The possibility of increasing groundwater withdrawal in case of drought indicated that additional withdrawal should be restricted to the southernmost 30% of the delta area, thus leaving the northern region without any possible additional development. This is expected to result in a total decrease of the thickness of the fresh groundwater of about 40 m.

Impact of hydraulic constructions

A study has been conducted to investigate the impact of rehabitating the Cairo-Damiette waterway on the hydrologic conditions in the region. The rehabilitation involves the construction of a weir at Manura, resulting in higher water stages in the Damietta branch. Results in the study indicated the following:

Seepage will take place from the river to the groundwater, thus refreshing the aquifer and increasing its potential for development.

Accordingly the rate of upward leakage from groundwater to the water table will increase slightly along with an increase in groundwater seepage to open drains, and

The groundwater quality will slightly improve, followed by a slight retreat of the freshwater/saltwater interface.

Impact of hydrologic changes on seawater intrusion

The changes include seawater rise and possible refreshment of the northern lakes by storing surplus river water during the winter closure of the irrigation system.



In conclusion, good EIA has to be at the center of any sound groundwater management plan. It needs to be carried out properly because it can contribute to an integrated environmental planning process which then will effectively respond to critical social and environmental needs on a long term sustainable basis.


Biswas, A. K. (1992) ‘Environmental Impact Assessment for Groundwater Management’, International Journal of Water Resources Development, 8: 2, 113 – 117.

Department of Environment (1995) Environment Impact Assessment Guidelines for Groundwater and/or Surface Water Supply Project. Kuala Lumpur: Dept. of Environment, Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment.

Department of Environment (2011) EIA: General Information. http://www.doe.gov.my/portal/developer/eia/eia-general-information/ [1 April 2011].

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“http://books.google.com.my/books?id=6OBawbBxuYoC&pg=PA113&lpg=PA113&dq=environmental+impact+assessment+for+seawater+intrusion&source=bl&ots=WpI28ECiig&sig=PdhkTMqb0zWYQRe1XcKmfZJl1jc&hl=en&ei=USqfTdjZC8SHrAfC35zrAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false”resnum=2HYPERLINK “http://books.google.com.my/books?id=6OBawbBxuYoC&pg=PA113&lpg=PA113&dq=environmental+impact+assessment+for+seawater+intrusion&source=bl&ots=WpI28ECiig&sig=PdhkTMqb0zWYQRe1XcKmfZJl1jc&hl=en&ei=USqfTdjZC8SHrAfC35zrAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false”&HYPERLINK “http://books.google.com.my/books?id=6OBawbBxuYoC&pg=PA113&lpg=PA113&dq=environmental+impact+assessment+for+seawater+intrusion&source=bl&ots=WpI28ECiig&sig=PdhkTMqb0zWYQRe1XcKmfZJl1jc&hl=en&ei=USqfTdjZC8SHrAfC35zrAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false”ved=0CCYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepageHYPERLINK “http://books.google.com.my/books?id=6OBawbBxuYoC&pg=PA113&lpg=PA113&dq=environmental+impact+assessment+for+seawater+intrusion&source=bl&ots=WpI28ECiig&sig=PdhkTMqb0zWYQRe1XcKmfZJl1jc&hl=en&ei=USqfTdjZC8SHrAfC35zrAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false”&HYPERLINK “http://books.google.com.my/books?id=6OBawbBxuYoC&pg=PA113&lpg=PA113&dq=environmental+impact+assessment+for+seawater+intrusion&source=bl&ots=WpI28ECiig&sig=PdhkTMqb0zWYQRe1XcKmfZJl1jc&hl=en&ei=USqfTdjZC8SHrAfC35zrAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false”qHYPERLINK “http://books.google.com.my/books?id=6OBawbBxuYoC&pg=PA113&lpg=PA113&dq=environmental+impact+assessment+for+seawater+intrusion&source=bl&ots=WpI28ECiig&sig=PdhkTMqb0zWYQRe1XcKmfZJl1jc&hl=en&ei=USqfTdjZC8SHrAfC35zrAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false”&HYPERLINK “http://books.google.com.my/books?id=6OBawbBxuYoC&pg=PA113&lpg=PA113&dq=environmental+impact+assessment+for+seawater+intrusion&source=bl&ots=WpI28ECiig&sig=PdhkTMqb0zWYQRe1XcKmfZJl1jc&hl=en&ei=USqfTdjZC8SHrAfC35zrAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false”f=false [3 April 2011]

Ramadas, K. (n.d) Legislation Related to Groundwater [pdf. File]


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