Aquatic Sciences

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Appropriate biological and ecological assessment underpins sustainable infrastructure development and operation.

Our reliance on the ecosystem services provided by marine, freshwater and estuarine environments demands a proactive approach to our sustainable use of these assets.

Our aquatic sciences services integrate scientific knowledge with  engineering and economic services to provide innovative, cost-effective  management solutions.

Our global team of environmental scientists provide support to clients in the following services:

  • Biological and habitat assessment and monitoring including; corals, seagrasses, mangroves, fish, megafauna, seabirds,  macroinvertebrates, infauna and wetlands
  • Environmental impact assessment and mitigation management
  • Compliance monitoring
  • Ecotoxicology
  • Water quality and sediment assessments and monitoring
  • Catchment and waterway inventories, assessments and rehabilitation
  • Wetland monitoring and rehabilitation including constructed wetlands
  • Protected species management
  • Pest species detection and management
  • Environmental flows
  • Fish-way and turtle-way design and delivery
  • Assessment of groundwater dependent ecosystems
  • Biodiversity offsets
  • Ecosystem service analysis
  • Multi-criteria and cost-benefit analysis

For further information, contact:

Patrick Maiden
Service Line Leader, Aquatic Sciences – Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East
T: +61 3 5136 5800
E: Patrick Maiden


Christine Miller
Service Line Leader, Aquatic Sciences - North America
T: +1 610 321 1800
E: Christine Miller

Caspar Creek Labyrinth Weir Fish Passage Restoration

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CalFire and the US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW) worked cooperatively in a comprehensive paired watershed study at the Caspar Creek Experimental Watersheds in Jackson Demonstration State Forest, located in coastal Mendocino County, California. As part of the study, concrete dams equipped with precise flow measurement weirs were constructed providing an essential component of the scientific research. 

In 1964, a wooden fish ladder was built downstream of each weir. To avoid backwatering and submerging the measurement weir, which compromises its accuracy, tailwater levels were kept low requiring fish to leap over a two to three foot water surface drop at the weir. This precluded upstream passage of juvenile salmonids. During low-flow periods, leakage through the wooden fish ladder posed a significant risk of stranding and injury of juvenile salmonids.

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Derwent Park Stormwater Re-use Scheme – Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR)

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Glenorchy City Council (GCC) faced the challenge of storing stormwater captured for re-use as industrial and irrigation supply. Due to the urbanised nature of the area, limited surface water storage opportunities existed.

The council appointed GHD to advise on suitable options. Our team began by identifying a potential aquifer in a sand and basalt-filled palaeo-channel of the Derwent River. We then designed and carried out a geophysical, drilling, testing and modelling program, which confirmed the presence of the aquifer and identified extraction yields of up to 30L/s per bore. The team designed a bore network and injection/extraction schedule to optimise limitations of the available reticulation system, site access and the aquifer variability. We also provided water quality input and output requirements to the council’s treatment plant design team.

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Donner und Blitzen River fish screen & passage improvements

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GHD’s team worked to a tight schedule with federal and state agencies to design fish passages and screening facilities which improved the movement of native fish through 20 miles of river in the refuge. All facilities included photovoltaic arrays to provide energy in off-grid locations.

The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon provides sanctuary to a range of fish and wildlife species. GHD supported the US Fish & Wildlife Service on the Donner und Blitzen River fish passage and screening improvement project. “This project has improved movement of native fish through 20 miles of the Refuge and created opportunities to limit movement of non-native fish,” Malheur Deputy Project Leader Chad Kerges said. “This helps the Refuge to advance its goals of improving conditions for native fish, reducing invasive fish species, and the protection of Refuge water rights”.

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East Fork Irrigation District Habitat Enhancement Program

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GHD has completed a number of habitat enhancement and fish passage projects for the East Fork Irrigation District, including fish screen & sand trap repairs, diversion headworks replacement, and habitat enhancement.

The East Fork Irrigation District delivers water from the Hood River watershed for use on nearly 10,000 acres of high quality agricultural property. The watershed supports anadromous fish runs and the district manages its deliveries to support water quality, water conservation and sensitive species. GHD has worked with the district to undertake a series of habitat enhancement projects that provide multiple benefits to the district and its stakeholder partners:

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Endangered species given more living room

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Life has improved for the endangered fish species known as Redside Dace following the GHD-designed realignment of a 750 m river tributary to allow the construction of a new school and housing development in the city of Brampton, southern Ontario, Canada.

As part of the project, detailed geomorphic fieldwork and an electrofishing survey were carried out to inform the new design, a 758 m channel length natural corridor for the tributary, which is home to the Redside Dace and other fish species.

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Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary Wetland Design

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We have placed a key role in the reconstruction of the Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary, one of the largest wetland rehabilitation projects of its kind ever undertaken in Western Australia.

The deteriorating manmade wetland was experiencing poor water quality in both the wetland and the adjacent Bayswater Brook. This in turn was impacting bird numbers, water quality of the Swan River and public amenities.

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Flood management study of various Maynilad Water facilities, Maynilad Water Services Inc.

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Maynilad commissioned GHD to provide a flood management strategy for identified facilities to determine the improvements and developments necessary to ensure that all these facilities will remain flood-free and operational during and after a typhoon.

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Hydroelectric Power Generation Feasibility Study

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High demand for electricity and escalating costs for power production has increased the economic feasibility of building small scale hydroelectric facilities. The objective of this project was to reassess the finding of the previous studies regarding the feasibility of bypassing pressure regulating valves at Metropolitan Water District (MWD) service connections to Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) and instead use energy recovering hydroelectric turbines to produce energy while also regulating water pressure and flow.

Eighty-two turnouts, belonging to MWDOC Member Agencies, were evaluated based upon pre-determined evaluation criteria including:

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Koondrook-Perricoota Forest, NSW: Vegetation Condition Monitoring Program

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GHD is assisting the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (through Forestry Corporation of NSW) to understand the response of the iconic Koondrook-Perricoota Forest to flooding and the application of ‘environmental water.’ The forest forms part of the second largest River Red-gum floodplain forest in Australia and has been under significant stress in recent decades due to river regulation and drought.

Since 2013, GHD has undertaken a five-year forest-wide monitoring program to determine change in vegetation condition in wetlands, forest understorey, individual trees and the overall forest stand.

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Lake Hamilton – Action plan for the improvement of water quality

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The Southern Grampians Shire Council (SGSC) engaged GHD to develop an Action Plan to improve water quality in Lake Hamilton in Australia. The overall aim of the Action Plan was to manage and prevent high levels of Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and Escherichia coli (E. coli).

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Mosquito Monitoring – Seaford Wetlands, Victoria

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Mosquito monitoring at Seaford Wetland commenced in early 2007 after concerns about the high abundance of mosquitoes had been raised by local residents and schools. Not only are mosquitoes a nuisance, but are troubling due to their ability to act as vectors for disease. GHD was commissioned by Melbourne Water to investigate the mosquito population at Seaford Wetlands in order to guide mosquito management.

Three mosquito-borne diseases are considered to be important by the Victorian Department of Health because of the disabling and severe symptoms they can cause.

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Murray River wetland rehabilitation

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Known as the Wetland Rehabilitation Project – Reinstating Wetting and Drying Regimes, this is one of the first projects of its type in Australia. The Lower Murray-Darling Catchment Management Authority engaged GHD to investigate, design and implement rehabilitation works to restore flood flows and fish passage to approximately 700ha of wetlands.

The team investigated wetland ecosystems to identify environmental values, then used this information to propose works and complementary land management activities aimed at achieving specific rehabilitation objectives for each wetland. The process involved flora, fauna and aquatic assessments, grazing pressure and land management assessments, indigenous cultural heritage assessments, and hydrologic-hydraulic simulation of proposed water regime options.

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EIS Ports of Hay

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The Ports Corporation of Queensland (PCQ) will be undertaking capital dredging at Port of Hay Point to increase water depth for ships departing the port.

An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has been completed for the project in accordance with approved Terms of Reference (ToR) and the requirements of Commonwealth and state approval agencies. All development approvals have now been obtained for the project and dredging was approved to commence on 1 May 2006.

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Upgrade halts water erosion in ravine

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Following a one-in-100-year storm that hit the north of Toronto in Canada, Birkdale Ravine was severely eroded, causing significant damage to surrounding assets. As a result, The City of Toronto turned to GHD to provide an urgent response.

Our goal was to prevent further damage to the valley wall and loss of private property. We developed an urgent design solution to restore and stabilise the channel in the affected areas, including existing road crossing structure and private property.

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Washington Suburban Asset Management (Md, USA)

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The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) appointed GHD to lead the provision of asset management services in support of master planning and enterprise resource planning initiatives.

WSSC is the eighth largest water and wastewater utility in the USA, owning USD$12 billion of infrastructure assets. While instituting a range of short-term measures to combat the increasing incidence of water main breaks and leaks, WSSC is also taking a long-range strategic approach to address the growing challenge of ageing infrastructure.

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Waterproofing the South Stage 1

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GHD was engaged as the lead consultant for the detailed design of two wetlands, two detention basins, a 93 ML storage dam at Wilfred Taylor Reserve and approximately 18 km of non-potable water distribution network to harvest 850 ML per annum of stormwater runoff from the Christie Creek catchment.

The scope of the project includes:

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Wyaralong Dam Turtle Monitoring Program, Seqwater

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GHD is playing a key role in helping Seqwater manage and monitor potential impacts of dam construction and operation on four species of freshwater turtle population. Our team designed and implemented the monitoring program to comply with legislative requirements, facilitate the identification of potential impacts and the implementation of adaptive management.

As part of this project, monitoring of the turtle population was undertaken above and below the dam wall every six months for the duration of the construction of the dam, and for the first five years of dam operation. Freshwater turtle populations were sampled using cathedral traps with individuals captured identified to species level and life history parameters recorded. Captured turtles were tagged with monel foot tag and released at the site of capture to assess turtle movement behavior through mark recapture. Annual monitoring of potential turtle nesting habitat was undertaken during the peak turtle nesting season over the five years of operation. Bank margins within five survey areas were assessed for nesting habitat suitability and systematically searched for both direct and indirect evidence of turtle nesting. Turtle monitoring program reporting was conducted following each survey event for compliance with Project approval conditions.

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