As mining operations are critically dependent on water and conservation of water resources, a water balance serves as the ultimate tool to assess the current status, in addition to identifying discrepancies, shortages and leakages within the distribution network. A water balance can be described as the measurement and determination of flow in and out of a system, which is also considered the main building block in developing a salt balance (estimation of salt concentrations within the reticulating system). As water is re-circulated in the interests of water conservation, salt concentrations increase, posing several complications to the system, including corrosion of metal components, brine accumulation categorising as hazardous material, that may pose health risks, which directly increases operational, treatment and replacement costs. Development and implementation of a water balance does not only provide a pro-active approach to water conservation and management strategies, but ensures a cost saving method as a foundation for salt balance estimations and a means to minimise risks.
Development of a water and salt balance requires a review and conceptualisation of the distribution system which is conducted based on an eight (8) step approach as described by DWAF Best Practice Guideline-G2: Water and Salt Balances.
A detailed desktop review is completed in terms of the current reticulating system, inclusive of data and information (volumes and concentrations) to compile a central project database used during proceeding phases of the project which is concisely summarised as:
Finally, a schematic flow diagram of the water reticulating system is developed based on the retrieved data and flow distribution conceptualisation. Water volumes and salt concentrations are mathematically incorporated into spreadsheets and calculated to determine the overall water and salt distribution. It should be noted that with the development of the balances, additional data requirements are included which entails, for example, direct rainfall volumes, run-off volumes, evaporation volumes and seepage volumes are included and assumptions allocated to the relevant process units.
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