Borehole User Conference 2017

As a newcomer to the drilling industry I attended the BHUC 2017 held by Envireau Water earlier in the month which was held at the beautiful Loughborough University. The pleasant surroundings, views and people made a change to the farm surroundings at Drilcorp.  It was great to meet suppliers and delegates for the first time and I very much enjoyed the whole day, the experience and can say I learned a lot of valuable information which I can now pass onto our clients.

David Banks started the day’s events with his presentation on Borehole Design and Getting it Right. I think the main points which I took from Dave were that wells deteriorate over time either by bacterial growth or via chemical participates and that they need maintenance.  David’s presentation focused on the importance of good borehole design and the benefits which it can bring to sustainable abstraction.  Dave is the co-author of the UK borehole design handbook “Waterwells and Boreholes” and Director of Holymoor Consultancy Ltd. With over 32 years’ experience  as a hydrogeologist he has studied groundwater all over the world.

On the topic of sustainability, Diane Steel from the Environment Agency continued with Pump Testing and covered sustainable abstraction and risk associated with water dependant features.  I asked Diane how they monitor water usage of private borehole supplies and she told me that research is taking place and so far the environment agency in the North East have identified over 20 users who are abstracting more than the legal amount without a licence. Enforcement is a huge task for the EA but one which is important if we are to sustain our groundwater supplies. Diane also covered borehole location and design and the importance of preventing bacterial contamination and monitoring for saline within 5KM of the coast. Protection of the environment was the main focus of Diane’s presentation and one which is at the heart of many abstractors at the moment.

“It’s all about the Data” was Phil Ham’s point of view along with “I love boreholes and I think you should too”!  Those of us in the industry would agree with Phil that you need to love your borehole and look after it. Phil talked about the more common problems with boreholes and why testing is invaluable to understand how your borehole is doing. He pointed out that boreholes don’t run dry, but pumps can fail, boreholes can collapse and clog. To prevent huge costs in repairs of your borehole it is recommended to use a preventative maintenance plan. Phil’s theory is that like a dog a borehole is for life and should be embraced. If you don’t rehabilitate your borehole you will have to replace it and that’s not where you want to be.

The afternoon sessions focused more on practical applications with Peter Dumble demonstrating water level monitoring, tools and techniques from dip tapes to data loggers. Phil Ham made a glamourous assistant in the demonstration as you may have seen on our twitter post. Peter stressed the need to have accurate measuring devices and how to take care when putting anything down a well.

Throughout the day I was tweeting on our social media and you may have seen my video of Danny Ronson from Siemens demonstrating flow meter technologies. Danny presented the critical area of water flow metering and the guidelines administered by the Environment Agency in the installation of a borehole and the methods and options which can be used to measure flow. Again sustainability was key to Danny’s presentation as without knowing what we are extracting and at what rate we cannot ensure we have a sustainable supply.

As a new edition to the conference it was great to see how boreholes can be used in Industry and to this end the afternoon sessions continued with three case studies from borehole users in different areas of the water industry. Andrew Francis of Elveden Estates told us about his farming methods, crops and his brand Garden of Elveden which was established in 2009. He also covered the huge problem of nitrate in water which is topical at the moment and is working with Cranfield University on water and nitrogen management in the growing crop. Andrew has seen a massive change in farm technology and the use of Drones, probes for soil moisture and GPS Sprayers are part of everyday life on the Elveden Estate now.  The future of farming according to Andrew holds real time measurement of soil moisture and nutrient status, irrigation delivery systems, faster analytical software, virtual allotments and smart regulation with a suggestion that there should be a code of practice for the maintenance and operation of your borehole.

Like many of us who drink bottled water we often think of water coming straight from the ground from springs and mountains but many bottled water abstractors also rely on a borehole to pump the water to the surface. Joe Watson of Montgomery Waters talked about the risks to the public he faces every day by providing bottled water. The industry has grown substantially in the last twenty years and now bottles 2.5 billion litres a year compared with 750 million. They are at the mercy of the Food Standards Authority, The Environment Agency and inevitably the customer or end user. In the early days Joe said that not a lot of time was devoted to borehole management, they were out of site and out of mind and most people had the attitude that if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. Now however they have a more controlled approach. The water is assessed for the microbiological condition, the chemistry is checked and so is the rainfall. They have installed data loggers and remote monitoring to get to where they are today.  Joe recommended a Borehole for Dummies maintenance programme be put in place and again using an old adage said that we don’t wait for our car to breakdown so why wait to service our borehole. Periodic planned servicing is the way forward.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Mark Morton’s presentation was that our public water supply comes from boreholes. Mark works for Yorkshire Water and presented on sustaining public water supplies. Yorkshire water has around 30 boreholes from which they abstract water for the whole of Yorkshire but without maintenance and renewal, sustaining their assets is an impossible task. Groundwater needs very little in terms of water treatment and makes up 96% of our water reserves. Unlike reservoirs which can have bacteria and sea water which contains sodium, our groundwater is very good quality. The carbon impact of de salinating sea water brings with it its own costs, problems and environmental impacts.  Mark is again an advocate for sustainability and stressed that unless we sustain our asset we will lose our water supply. There is a need to balance public need for water with the environment and as our assets get older there is a need for investment, greater knowledge and new assets.

I found the whole day to be a valuable experience and it was great to connect with like- minded delegates during lunch and to see the practice in the real world. There were a raft of trade exhibitors from pump and equipment supplier s, laboratory services, geophysics, Hydrogeologists, and even a few musicians and actors among the speakers.  Envireau Water held a fantastic day and I look forward to more events to come.

All of the presentations can be found on Envireau Waters’s website.

Borehole Engineering Services can cater for everything a borehole user may need from planned maintenance to emergency remediation and repairs. We offer pump replacement, chemical cleaning, water analysis and CCTV Surveys.

We work with Environment Agency to arrange licencing and offer expert, professional advice.

For all enquiries please contact Mike Bushby on 0191 5273970.

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