There is growing acceptance that the mining industry needs to understand water-related risks, both on and off-site, and to mitigate these risks through strategic water management. It is particularly important for companies to understand the water-related impacts from their operations to local communities. This understanding needs to be integrated in corporate policy and operational water practices. However, on many sites this understanding is either incomplete or not considered in operational-level water management.

This project presents the Social Water Assessment Protocol (SWAP) which is a scoping tool that captures a site’s social water context. The SWAP is to be connected with a technical framework that represents a site’s operational water management, such as the Minerals Council of Australia’s Water Accounting Framework. By doing so, the SWAP helps to integrate the social context into a site’s water operations.

The SWAP consists of fifteen broad themes containing approximately forty topics which are intended to serve as prompts for capturing the socio-environmental context of a site as it relates to water. Each topic contains a set of questions to demonstrate the types of information that should be considered. The SWAP also provides guidance on potential sources of information – both primary and secondary – to consult.

The fourteen themes investigated within the SWAP are as follows:

  1. A snapshot of the physical water sources within the context
  2. A survey of the climate conditions of the context
  3. A survey of how water is used for domestic purposes within the context
  4. A survey of the water infrastructure within the context
  5. A survey of how water is used with the formal economy and industry within the context
  6. A survey of the water interactions of and significance of water to Indigenous peoples within the context
  7. A survey of the cultural and spiritual values that people place upon water within the context
  8. A survey of the recreational use of water within the context
  9. A survey of general human rights issues related to water within the context
  10. A survey of gender issues related to water within the context
  11. A survey of health issues related to water within the context
  12. A survey of how other key stakeholders in the context interact with water within the context
  13. A survey of the interaction that occurs between stakeholders within the context
  14. A survey of the legislation, policy and politics related to water within the context

This is a collaborative project with the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining.


  1. To provide a mechanism for sites to better understand their surrounding social water context.
  2. To establish a link between onsite operational water management and offsite social water impacts.


Nina Collins and Alan Woodley, Social Water Assessment Protocol: A Step Towards Connecting Mining Water and Human Rights, Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal vol. 3, no 2,2013,   pp. 159-167.

​Alan Woodley and Nina Collins, Using the SWAP to Connect Water, Human Rights and Mining, International Association of Impact Assessment (IAIA) 2013, May 13-16 2013, Calgary, Canada, 2013

Project members