Ever wanted to know why rips form in the surf? Or what happens to all the sand on the beach in a storm? What amount of water does it take for a car to float? How are dams, harbours and breakwalls designed? And how, exactly, do these things get tested anyway?
There are complex and fascinating answers to these questions (and more), and many of us have no idea they are discovered right beside our very own Manly Dam – at either (or at both) the NSW Government’s Manly Hydraulics Laboratory (MHL) or the University of NSW’s adjacent facility Water Research Laboratory (WRL) [only the MHL tracks Manly Dam behaviour].
After a huge $10.5 million overhaul, The Manly Hydraulics Laboratory at Manly Dam was officially reopened and, according to Northern Beaches Council, has “tripled its modelling and testing capabilities.”
But what exactly is that?
Laboratory Director Edward Couriel explained the new hydraulics laboratory can replicate highly complex scenarios such as floods, droughts and coastal storm surges which allow us to prepare for a variety of scenarios throughout the country.
The upgrade provided a new laboratory with three model reservoirs that can recreate flows greater than 2,200 litres per second – capable of up to 4,300 litres per second.
“Using scaled models, we can confidently see how potential future water infrastructure will operate in a range of weather and flow conditions, testing their safety before projects begin construction, which can save lives and millions of dollars,” Mr Couriel said.
“This is the first major upgrade for our lab in almost 30 years, so we are excited to make use of the larger, more modern facilities to trial solutions for a vast array of water challenges….”
Amanda Jones, the Deputy Secretary, Water, for the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (NSW DPIE) – the department responsible for surface and groundwater management – praised the work of the research team at the MHL.
“Manly Hydraulics Laboratory staff are leaders in water modelling and hydrometric monitoring and this new facility will ensure they can continue building this capability and provide independent expertise,” she said.
“This new lab has delivered the high-tech equipment they need to continue providing the best advice on everything from design safety for dams and weirs, flood mitigation, fishways, beach protection and more.”
Water way to go
On 16 September, the University of NSW-managed Water Research Laboratory (WRL) will open its doors to the public to meet the experts and observe the overlap of science and engineering from 9am to 1pm.
Hydrology is the scientific study of the movement, distribution and management of water – including human impacts on its conditions and availability.
Alice Harrison, Hydrologist and Project Engineer at the WRL, told Manly Observer, “The UNSW Water Research Laboratory is a hydraulics laboratory that tackles a wide variety of water engineering problems across multiple fields, including coastal engineer, civil engineering hydraulics and environmental engineering.
“The laboratories themselves are full of scale models, including dams, harbours and breakwaters, which we can subject to scaled waves or flows to test our new designs or upgrades to real world structures.
“On our open day, we open our laboratories to the public. On the day, we will have water running through each of our models, demonstrating the type of testing that we do. It will be a self-guided tour, with our staff located with each one of the models to provide explanations of what we are doing, and why.”
The promotion video features a 4-wheel-drive car floating in a giant tank of water, and artificial waves coursing towards a miniature cityscape built on a precarious promontory.
The WRL Open Day publicity states: “Ever wanted to know why rips form in the surf? Or what happens to all the sand on the beach in a storm? What amount of water does it take for a car to float? How are dams, harbours and breakwalls designed? And how, exactly, do these things get tested anyway?
“Our talented researchers solve all kinds of problems related to water and the environment. Our “laboratory” doesn’t have test tubes and lab coats; instead we build models of dams and harbours larger than your living room!”
Is the Water Research Laboratory a separate operation to the Manly Hydraulics Laboratory alongside, given that they both source their water from Manly Dam?
Alice explains: “WRL and MHL are two separate facilities. We actually do quite similar work (they are also a hydraulics laboratory), and sometimes collaborate together, but we are completely separate. They have separate facilities which are not connected to ours.
“We [WRL] are separate from Manly Dam, and we do not operate or manage the dam itself (including monitoring of the dam water levels, which is done by the adjacent Manly Hydraulics Lab).
“Our team here is a mix of post graduate students, academics and staff doing applied research for industry and government. Some of our models are done for real world projects, such as a dam upgrade, or the construction of a new breakwaters. However, we also have models that are for pure research, such as understanding dune erosion processes or understanding hydraulic jumps.”
WRL Open Day date and time: Saturday 16 September 9am-1pm
Address: 110 King St Manly Vale (near Manly Dam)
Water Research Laboratory: https://www.wrl.unsw.edu.au/
WRL Open Day details: https://www.wrl.unsw.edu.au/all-events/wrl-open-day
Manly Hydraulics Laboratory: https://www.mhl.nsw.gov.au/