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Wind farms and groundwater impacts: A practice guide to EIA and Planning considerations

What impact can a wind farm have on groundwater?

The development of a wind farm has the potential to impact on groundwater quality, groundwater quantity and/or the established groundwater flow regime. Figure 1 shows the scale and extent of the foundation of a single wind turbine which could potentially impact on the aquatic environment. Changes to the local water environment can affect receptors such as wells/boreholes, springs, wetlands and waterways, and can also have implications for groundwater dependent ecology and/or land stability.

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Figure 1: Construction of the foundation of a single wind turbine.

The key impacts to groundwater that can result from the construction, operational and decommissioning stages of wind farms are summarised in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Potential impacts on groundwater from wind farms

Construction Phase Operational Phase Decommissioning Phase
Groundwater Flow Regime Earthworks and site drainage:
• Reduction in water table if dewatering is required for turbine foundation construction or borrow pits;
• Changes to groundwater distribution and flow.
Physical presence of turbines and tracks:
• Possible changes to groundwater distribution;
• Reduction in groundwater storage.
Reduction of forestry in site area:
• Changes to infiltration and surface runoff patterns, thereby influencing groundwater flow and distribution.
Physical presence of former turbines and tracks:
• Possible changes to groundwater distribution;
• Reduction in groundwater storage.
Groundwater Quality Earthworks:
• Disturbance of contaminated soil and subsequent groundwater pollution.
Materials Management:
• Pollution from spills or leaks of fuel, oil and building materials.
Materials Management:
• Pollution from spills or leaks of fuel or oil.
Use of vehicles and machinery to remove infrastructure:
• Pollution from spills or leaks of fuel or oil.

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