The Coal Authority and Environment Agency are piloting a new data tool to investigate the relationship between mine water and groundwater.
The free online tool will help identify mining and groundwater constraints and gives guidance to local planning authorities, developers and consultants to help them design sustainable drainage systems (Suds) in coalfield areas.
The Coal Authority environment manager Ian Watson said: “Suds are a sequence of water management practices, designed to efficiently and sustainably drain surface water, to minimise the impact on flooding and local water quality.
“Suds usually incorporate infiltration to ground within their sequence of management practices and it is these systems that this tool can help design.
“In areas with specific geology, in particular those affected by mining, and a high water table, infiltration-based sustainable drainage systems may not work and could result in groundwater flooding or pollution risks. Additionally, such issues might not occur immediately, but could take many years to manifest themselves as mine water levels rise over time.
“For that reason, it is now necessary to consider the potential future spatial pattern of mine water and groundwater levels and the potential pollution impacts together.”
The Environment Agency’s groundwater and contaminated land team Sally Gallagher said: “The screening tool provides developers and local authorities with a better understanding of what they will need to consider in new development proposals to reduce the impact of drainage systems now and throughout their design life.
“The Environment Agency has provided technical input to help bring this new tool to life. It’s an exciting and successful project that we have worked closely with the Coal Authority on to provide a clear picture of the risks associated with the Durham and Northumberland coalfield. The support of local authorities in trialling and helping develop the tool over the past year has been invaluable.”
“Suds provide real benefits to society and to the environment, moving surface water from a problem to a valuable resource. This screening tool will help ensure that where Suds are used in mined areas their design and long term management could provide measurable benefits and improve our environment by reducing flooding and pollution of our rivers, lakes and groundwater.”
The new screening tool covers most of North East England, but there are plans to extend its reach if the pilot project is successful.