Glossary items



This is something that happens which is unplanned, most often with bad results, such as damage to property, injury or death.


The condition of a substance which contains a sufficient amount of acid substances to lower the pH below 7.0.


The mixing or agitation of wastewater, allowing for the mixture of air (oxygen) with the wastewater.


A type of simple aquatic plant.

algal bloom

An extensive growth of algae in a body of water (river, lake, dam), usually as a result of high nutrient levels in the water.


Sub-samples; or a number of smaller samples taken from a sample area which together give results for the whole.


The condition of water or soil which contains a sufficient amount of alkali substances to raise the pH above 7.0.

alphanumeric grid

A grid of numbered rows and lettered columns (or vice versa) superimposed on a map, used to find and identify features. Alphanumeric grids are commonly used as a reference system on local street maps.


An underground reservoir.

Australian drinking water guidelines

Have been developed by government, industry and research organisations to help the water industry provide good quality drinking water. The guidelines focus on scheme water and do not cover bottled drinking water.



Living organisms, microscopic in size, which usually consist of a single cell. Most bacteria are harmless and very important in the environment. Most bacteria use organic matter for their food and produce waste products as a result of their life processes.


Geographic orientation of a line, given as an angle measurement in degrees clockwise from north.

biological hazard

Any agent that causes infection including: bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. An everyday example of a biological hazard is an outbreak of colds or flu occurring in an office. An example with more serious consequences is the increasing incidence of waterborne diseases.


Biosolids are organic materials which can be made from treated wastewater. They can be used to enrich and fertilise soil.


A narrow, deep hole bored into the ground to reach an aquifer to extract water under pressure.



Most instruments and sensors are designed to meet certain accuracy specifications. Calibration is the process of setting up the equipment so any reading taken is accurate. The device used to calibrate other instruments is known as a calibrator.


A person who studies the natural and social features of the Earth through the construction and use of maps.


The area of land from which surface and ground water drains into a river or other watercourse (stream, wetlands).

Central Business District (CBD)

The location within a city where the retail and commercial business buildings are usually concentrated. It is often referred to as the ‘heart’ of a city.


Typical or distinctive qualities of something or someone.


The addition of chlorine to water, mainly for the purpose of disinfection, to kill disease-causing organisms.


Highly toxic chemical used for disinfection of water — usually comes in a yellow/green gas. It occurs naturally in the salt in safe water.


The generalised weather conditions of a region including such things as temperature, humidity, sunshine, cloudiness, wind speed, rainfall.


Chemicals that cause very fine particles to clump together into large particles. This makes it easier to separate the solids from the water by settling, skimming, draining, or filtering.


When a fluid changes form into a thicker mass similar to curdling


Chain of custody.


A navigational instrument. It has a magnetised pointer which lines itself up accurately with the Earth's magnetic field. This means that if a compass is lying on a flat surface the pointer will always point north.

composite sample

A composite sample is a collection of individual samples obtained at regular intervals, usually every one or two hours during a 24-hour time span. Each individual sample is combined with the others in proportion to the rate of flow when the sample was collected. The resulting mixture (composite sample) forms a representative sample and is analysed to determine the average conditions during the sampling period.


To change from a gas or vapour form into liquid, eg steam to water.




Individuals or organisations who use services provided by others.



Unwanted substances that get into sources of drinking water or stormwater.


To make unfit for use.

contour lines

Curved lines on a map that connect points of equal elevation (height) above a given level, usually based on sea level.

contour interval

The difference in elevation (height) between adjacent (next to each other) contour lines.


From a safety point of view, control is being able to keep something locked down or within certain limits. If a hazard is controlled, then, while it can not be taken out completely, the danger that it poses can be reduced to acceptable limits.

cross section

The intersection of a 3-dimensional body with a plane.


Influences on the environment that are the result of social (human) activity as opposed to natural influences. Examples of both can be seen in the growth of different vegetation, eg pine plantations are cultural, forest and bushland are natural.





Substances that can produce diarrhoea, usually by ingesting certain pathogens spread through water.




To destroy germs.

dissolved oxygen

Is the oxygen that has dissolved in water.

distribution system

A system to distribute water which may include valves, pumps, pipes, storage tanks, meters, etc.

drainage systems

A drainage system can be either a man-made arrangement of different parts to remove excess water or natural features in the landscape that cause water to flow away and collect somewhere else.



The distance east of the origin that a point in a two-dimensional rectangular coordinate system lies, measured in that system's units (see also northings).

The distance east of the origin that a point in a rectangular coordinate system lies, measured in that system's units.

e-coli/escherichia coli

One of the main species of bacteria that live in the lower intestines of warm-blooded animals. This bacterium is necessary for the proper digestion of food. Its presence in water is a common indicator of faecal contamination — the presence of poo.


The outflow of water from a process.


This means to get rid of or remove completely.

Electrical Conductivity (EC) testing

Is a measure of water's ability to conduct electrical current. The more saline water is, the higher its ability to conduct electricity so electrical conductivity is commonly used to measure salinity.


To plan and construct.


All the physical and social conditions in any given area.

environmental hazards

A hazard that can present a problem for the environment.


Environmental Protection Authority or Agency. State or territory level government bodies whose primary concerns are care of the environment.


The imaginary line that runs horizontally around the centre of the earth. As the earth is a sphere, the equator divides it into two equal parts, commonly known as the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere.


Erosion is the wearing away of something and occurs in solids like rock or soils when they are carried off by the movement of natural elements like water, wind or ice. The Grand Canyon in the USA is an example of the results of erosion.


To turn into vapour.



Process in which particulate matter in water is removed by passage through porous media. In the water filtration process, grit/aeration/final settling filtering tanks are used.


Something is flammable if it can catch on fire. Some items are more readily flammable (catch fire more easily) than others. For this reason, observe 'no smoking' rules in the presence of flammable items.


Clumps of bacteria and particulate impurities that have come together and formed a cluster. Found in flocculation tanks and settling or sedimentation basins.



fossil fuels

Or mineral fuels are found within the top layer of the Earth's crust and include coal and crude oil. Fossil fuels are natural resource (made by nature) and exist in fixed amounts.


This is a type of force caused by two surfaces moving against each other. The effect of this is usually to slow the movement down.


grab sample

A single sample collected at a particular time and place which represents the composition of the water only at that time and place.


The force of attraction by which all objects and substances tend to fall towards the centre of the Earth.


Wastewater produced from domestic processes including: bathing, laundry and dish washing. Some of the pollutants that are present in greywater include phosphorus, nitrogen, and pathogens.

greywater recycling

The reuse of greywater, particularly for use in landscape irrigation and domestic gardens is gaining wide support. Government regulation for domestic reuse is a developing area and before installing a greywater recycling system it is necessary to seek advice from your local authority.

grid system

An arrangement into squares or a grid.

grid referencing

Numeric labelling of rows and columns on map grids.

ground water

Begins as rain water and enters the ground and is stored in permeable rock and between particles of soil, which acts like a sponge and eventually forms a ground water reservoir. It is extracted for use from bores and springs.



A hazard is anything that poses a danger to health or well-being. This can be something physical, like machinery, something environmental like the weather or the location being worked in, or something personal such as bullying behaviour. Hazards can also be created by not doing something, such as failing to train someone in safe procedures.

A biological, chemical, physical or radiological agent that has the potential to cause harm.

hazardous substances

Are substances that have the potential to harm human health. A wide range of industrial, laboratory and agricultural chemicals, generating vapours, fumes, dusts or mists, are classified as hazardous when used in the workplace. Exposure to these substances may result in poisoning, irritation, chemical burns, sensitisation, cancer, birth defects or diseases in organs like the skin, lungs, liver, kidneys and nervous system.

heavy metals

Are elements such as copper, lead, zinc and mercury. They are found everywhere in the environment because they are naturally part of the Earth's crust. Heavy metals can become concentrated in urban environments (and end up in stormwater) because our society is based on many industrial activities which use them. They can also be found in elevated levels in rural catchments where mining activities have occurred or because of unusual geology.


Any half of a sphere. When applying the term to the Earth it can refer to the northern, southern, western or eastern hemispheres.


industrial waste

Waste produced by industrial activity including factories, mills and mines. While a lot of industrial waste is harmless it may also contain hazardous and toxic waste which cannot be released untreated into the environment, particularly waterways.


Watering the land. This promotes the growth of vegetation.



This is a Job Safety Analysis. This is the process of looking at a job that has to be done, breaking it down into smaller tasks, identifying any possible risks that might be involved and suggesting controls and preventions to stop them occurring or lessen the danger.



Any natural feature of the land having a characteristic shape, including major forms such as plains and mountains and minor forms such as hills and valleys.


Lines of latitude run parallel to one another and are shown as horizontal lines on maps. They are numbered from 0 degrees at the equator to the north and south poles at 90 degrees north and 90 degrees south.


The legend of a map (also called the key) is a small table accompanying the map that explains the symbols used on the map.


Lines of longitude are shown as vertical lines on a map. They are also numbered in degrees starting with 0 starting at the prime meridian to 180 degrees east and west, which together make up 360 degrees.



A graphic representation of a part of the Earth's surface. Different types of maps are used for different purposes and include the following:

  • Atlas — contains information on landforms. It can show population density and political boundaries that exist between regions, states and nations.
  • Cadastral — shows the boundaries between properties and records land ownership. They also provide a record of land sub-divisions.
  • Topographic — provides detailed information about the natural, social and industrial features on a landscape.
  • Road maps and street directories contain information about how to get from one place to another, using a vehicle or foot.
  • Photo mosaic — consists of aerial photographs without any correction with scale distortions. Google Earth™ is an example of this type.
map scale

Is the ratio of a single unit of distance on the map to the equivalent distance on the ground. The scale can be expressed in a number of ways, including a ratio, a fraction and percentage.


Something that does not function (work) properly.

MSDS/Material Safety Data Sheet

This is an information sheet about a specific chemical substance including:

  • known risks
  • health effects
  • correct storage and handling procedures
  • emergency procedures in the case of a spill or a fire.

Either plant or animal, generally not visible to the naked eye. Include bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses.


To reduce to the smallest amount.


near miss

A near miss is thought of as a type of accident — just one in which no injury or property damage has occurred. Most of us don't realise the importance of all the near misses that occur in our lives. Often there may be a split second between a near miss and a fatal accident. Near misses at work should be investigated to prevent the same events happening again, with possibly tragic results the next time.


This is said to have occurred from a safety point of view when not enough care has been taken in order to protect the well-being of the people involved.


Substances containing the nitrate compound (NO3).


A colourless, odourless, tasteless, inert gas which is present in all living tissue.

  • Grid north: The direction north along the north-south grid lines of a map projection.
  • Magnetic north: The direction from a point on the Earth's surface following a great circle toward the magnetic north pole, indicated by the north-seeking end of a compass.
  • True north: The direction from any point on the Earth's surface to the geographic north pole.

The distance north of the origin that a point in a two-dimensional rectangular coordinate system lies, measured in that system's units (see also eastings).


Include several naturally occurring chemicals that animals and plants need to grow. In water quality, we usually refer to plant nutrients and these are different forms of nitrogen (eg oxidized nitrogen, ammonia) and phosphorus. They can cause excessive growth of algae, which can clog waterways and occasionally blue-green algae, which can be toxic.


Occupational Health and Safety Representative

This is an employee at the workplace who is elected to represent the health and safety of his or her colleagues. OH&S representatives are trained in health and safety issues such as assessing the risk of potential hazards, health and safety laws and investigating accidents. Most organisations have an OH&S rep. If there is no rep at the site where you work, ask your supervisor for information on OH&S workplace procedures.


OH&S stands for occupational health and safety, and is the term used to describe the practices and laws that ensure people are able to work safely. In some states — such as WA — this is referred to as OS&H (Occupational Safety and Health).

operating licences

Give permission to water corporations to provide water, wastewater, recycled water and some stormwater services to a given region. The operating licence reflects public expectations on how water providers should operate. Licences are awarded by state governments in Australia.

organic/inorganic matter

Organic matter is matter that has come from a once-living organism; is capable of decay, or the product of decay. Inorganic matter is substances of mineral origin and not living organisms.

organisational requirements

These describe rules and practices that are in place at work. They are rules about how people work that an employer puts in place to help the efficient running of the workplace and to ensure everyone's safety is looked after. For example, it may be an organisational requirement that staff are wearing the correct PPE before entering a laboratory area.


Are a group of pesticide chemicals which contain phosphorus intended to control insects, eg malathion and parathion.


An object's position or relationship in direction with reference to points of the compass.


Is the addition of oxygen, removal of hydrogen, or the removal of electrons from an element or compound. In the environment, organic matter is oxidised to more stable substances.



Pathogenic or disease-causing organisms.

pH (potential of hydrogen)

Measure of the degree of acidity or alkalinity, expressed on a scale of 1 to 14. A pH of 7.0 denotes neutrality; higher values indicate alkalinity and lower values acidity. Natural waters usually have a pH between 6.5 and 8.5.


A compound containing a central phosphorous atom surrounded by four oxygen atoms. Phosphates occur in some garden fertilisers so it is important to limit their use as run off from fertilized areas can contaminate waterways like rivers.


To make dirty.


The contamination of air, water or soil by some form of matter to an undesirable level.


The total number of people who inhabit an area, which could b a country, town or area.

PPE: personal protective equipment

This is clothing and equipment that helps to protect you at work. While very important, it should be the last line of defence in protecting against hazards. PPE can include: headwear, footwear, hi-vis vests, eye and ear protection and sunscreen.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is any clothing, equipment or substance designed to protect a person from risks of injury or illness. PPE can include ear muffs and ear plugs, respirators, eye and face protection (goggles, safety helmets and sun hats), gloves and safety boots, clothing (high visibility vests or life jackets). You must wear PPE if your workplace says it should be worn.


To fall from the clouds eg rain.

prime meridian

The prime meridian is the imaginary line that runs up and down a map or globe. It is found at 0 degrees longitude and is the starting point to measure distances to the East or West. The Prime Meridian runs from the North to the South Pole and passes through the town of Greenwich in England.


This is a method (or way) of doing something. Workplaces will often have set ways of doing things because the steps involved have been tried and tested and are thought to be the most logical way to do things according to the needs of the employer and the job to be done.

pumping station

Mechanical device installed in sewer or water system or other liquid-carrying pipelines to move the liquids to a higher level.


radioactive material

Is a physical material that emits ionizing (electrically charged atoms) radiation.


Fixed allowance or allocation of a resource or product.

reaction time

This is the amount of time it takes you to respond to an incident, for example, how long it would take you to hit the brakes if you saw an car accident in front of you.

recycled wastewater

see greywater.


Controlled by rules.


This is the act of taking care of (or looking after) something or someone. If cleaning the sample bottles is your responsibility then it is up to you to make sure the job is done.


From a safety point of view, a risk is something that poses a threat, usually to health or well-being.


Of (or relating to) the characteristics of the country, country life or country people.


When water falls to the ground as rain, snow or irrigation, some of it is absorbed by the Earth. Any water that can not be absorbed flows away and is known as run-off. Run-off can cause erosion and also can carry contaminants, like phosphates into surface water areas.


safety culture

This is a general attitude by all people in a workplace that safety is more important than getting the job done quickly or cheaply by taking short cuts or exposing people to danger. It generally means that employers and employees will work together to make safety the first priority of any job and no one will be made to feel bad about questioning whether a hazard should be investigated or a risky work practice changed.


See map scale.

Scale bar

A map element used to graphically represent the scale of a map. A scale bar is typically a line marked like a ruler in units proportional to the map's scale.

scheme water

Water supplied by your local water authority.

Water that is managed by water industry providers to provide the population with clean drinking water and manage waste water. Organisations are strictly regulated by government.

settled water

Water that has completed the sedimentation process.


Waste matter (mainly liquid) which is produced by humans and contains: washing water, laundry water, faeces and urine. It is taken away by a system of pipes and managed by water service providers.

Wastewater from domestic sources. Network of pipes through which sewage is conveyed.


The settleable solids separated from water during processing.

The solids or biosolids (heavier organic waste material) resulting from the wastewater treatment process; it is separated from the effluent, treated and disposed of or used.


The science of collecting, classification and use of numerical data.


The skilful management and planning to achieve a goal or an end.

surface water

Water which flows over the surface of the land naturally open to the atmosphere, eg run-off from roads, roofs, paddocks, rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs.


To find the balance between meeting human needs (as consumers) and the ability of the natural environment to provide these needs now and in the future.


test parameters

Water quality tests.


Something which is able to produce illness or death in an exposed organism.


To emit or give off waste matter.


A measure of water clarity. Low turbidity means the water is clear. Technically, turbidity is an optical property of the water based on the amount of light reflected by suspended particles. The cloudy appearance of water is caused by the presence of suspended and colloidal matter, but turbidity cannot be directly equated to suspended solids because white particles reflect more light than dark-coloured particles and many small particles will reflect more light than an equivalent large particle.


An instrument for measuring and comparing the turbidity of liquids by passing light through them and determining how much light is reflected by the particles in the liquid.



Of (or relating to) city or town, characteristic of cities or towns.



All plant life.



Any water that has waste material in it.

Water used by households and industry that is no longer suitable for human consumption. In urban areas it is usually removed through a series of pipes which take it to a water treatment centre.

water cycle

The continuous movement of water on, above and below the surface of the Earth. Water changes states depending on which part of the cycle it is in and includes liquid, vapour and ice.

water distribution system

Controls the flow and direction of both surface water and ground water. It is the link between water capture and treatment systems and the consumer.

water pressure

The amount force put on a body of water.

water restrictions

The restriction or ban of outdoor use of water in designated areas, for example a limit put on the number of days, in any given week, households are allowed to water their gardens.

water sampling

The process of collecting water from different locations, using set procedures and equipment and following safety requirements. Used to carry out tests on water quality.

water service providers

Commercial organisations that are licensed by government to provide households and industry with clean water and mange and treat their waste water.

water source

Where water comes from, eg an aquifer which is ground water or surface water such as a river.

Origin of water.

water treatment system

A system for treating water, which can include greywater recycling system, drinking water purification system, sewage management system.

Function to make untreated water suitable for a particular purpose, for example as drinking water or for industrial purposes.

Work practices

These describe how things are done in the workplace. For example, it may be a work practice to have always have a 'buddy 'with you when you go sampling. See also organisational requirements.