Lake Zot February 2020 After Rain

Interview with UNE’s Environmental Sustainability Manager, on Lake Zot

If you’ve visited SportUNE’s facilities recently, you might have noticed that across the way there’s a lot of work happening! It’s actually a pretty massive project and one to get excited about, it’s headed up by the team at Facilities Maintenance Services and one that will impact the entire Armidale Campus of the UNE.

We collaborate quite frequently with the team from FMS, so thought it was a great time to get one of the team, and someone who has played a huge role in this project, to share a bit of an update, UNE’s Environmental Sustainability Manager, Suzannah Mitchell.

This is a BIG project; can you tell us a little about the project scope?

This project involves not just the remediation of the lake, but upgrades to the drainage system that channels water into the lake.

The rain that falls on the central academic campus buildings, car parks, and roads drains down through pipes under the southern car park. All of this runoff is now being diverted to Lake Zot, instead of going down the drain or being lost to evaporation.

Sediment and erosion controls have been incorporated into the design so the water entering the lake will go through a series of structures to treat the water and remove sediment. This infrastructure also helps to mitigate flow rates so that scouring doesn’t take place during significant rainfall events.

At the moment, the lake itself is having decades worth of sediment and rubbish removed. There had been issues with leakage in the past so the contractors are also working on compacting and relining the wall with an impervious clay material that will keep the water in.

Once completed the plan is to install vegetated wildlife pontoons for native birds and wildlife. The floating pontoons are ideal for birds as they are safe from natural predators.

Who has been involved in this project?

The project has been a collaboration between the FMS Capital Team, Cultural Advisor, and our own UNE experts from the School of Environmental and Rural Science. My colleague and fellow environmental engineer, Dr James Turnell, has been involved since the very beginning, reviewing designs, and providing advice on how to maximise this project as a teaching and learning resource. In fact, he has incorporated Lake Zot as a case study in his unit ENGT237 Local Environmental Infrastructure. To complete this project, we’re working in collaboration with civil contractors KCE and they are currently undertaking earthworks in the lake.

How does this project fall into the bigger picture of sustainability at UNE?

The scope of sustainability is enormous. It needs to be embedded within all aspects of UNE’s operations, but this is just one of a number of projects FMS is delivering. This particular project is intended to make UNE a more drought resilient campus and reduce our reliance on the town water supply. We all saw how bad the drought got last year, so once the lake fills up it will bring some comfort to know that we have this resource to keep our sports facilities usable, and keep our heritage listed gardens alive.

There are so many other aspects of sustainability. Working in Facilities Management with the support of our awesome Director, Jo Scanlan, we have the ability to implement built infrastructure projects like this and the solar farm, as well as focussing on the non-physical initiatives like raising awareness and educating our community.

Some of the other areas where we have exciting things happening are landscape management – we are working with our Aboriginal Cultural Advisor and Landscape Advisory Committee to develop a Landscape Management Plan for the campus. We also have a waste and recycling project and sustainability campaign with UNE Life that you will start seeing and hearing more about!

Lake Zot Construction
Work in progress shots: Provided by FMS

Where we are at with the project?

Ironically the project was massively delayed due to the rainfall over the summer – we had more rainfall in Armidale in January and February this year than we had for the whole of 2019! It took months to dewater the lake, but we were able to use that water on Consett Davis to keep the fields green.

Pending further rain, the project is a few months away from completion. Each subsequent rainfall event delays work, as the site conditions are too wet for the machinery and equipment. Our hope is to have it ready for the predicted rainfall this summer.

Thanks for spending a little time updating us with this project, Suzannah – it’s really awesome to know that UNE is thinking forward and future-proofing the campus for future staff, students, and the wider community! 

If you would like to have your say about the future of sustainability on campus
we would love you to participate in UNE’s 2020 Environmental Sustainability Survey.