The unprecedented 2019-20 bushfire season in Australia highlighted the urgent need for improved tools to assess water quality risks in burned catchments. The aftermath of these catastrophic events, characterised by ash, sediment, and contaminants entering waterways and reservoirs, presented significant challenges for water suppliers.

Water Research Australia’s latest released report has developed a conceptual catchment modelling tool to predict and quantify contaminant mobilisation post-bushfires.

Led by Alluvium in collaboration with our key project funders, this research seeks to enhance water quality risk assessment in burned catchments through two key objectives. Firstly, by developing modules that model the transport of ash, sediment, and nutrients into water supply assets, enabling strategic planning and incident response. Secondly, by integrating these water quality modules into existing modelling workflows used by water utilities, ensuring seamless implementation and regional customisation.

This Model Development Plan serves as the blueprint for the project’s first stage, outlining the architecture of the proposed bushfire water quality modules and their integration with existing modelling frameworks. By combining insights from past bushfires and scoping workshops with water utilities, we’re paving the way for a nationally consistent yet regionally bespoke modelling approach.

This report is exclusively available for WaterRA members to download now, so together we can reshape the future of water quality risk assessments, ensuring safer and more secure water supplies in the face of future bushfire events.