Risk assessment and risk management now underpin environmental protection in the UK. Risk
assessment provides for a structured and systematic analysis of a problem, and is an objective
tool to inform risk management decisions. In particular, risk assessment can assist in the
prioritisation of management activities to direct resources more effectively to significant risks.
However, the application of risk assessment remains ad hoc and often focused on quantified
approaches. The problem of how to integrate the results of a risk assessment into decisionmaking
processes remains. The objective of this research was to assess whether a knowledgebased
approach could be usefully applied to risk management decisions associated with the
protection of groundwater. The use of a knowledge-based system offers considerable potential
to support regulatory decision-making relating to environmental risks. Such systems utilise
expert knowledge to solve specific problems as an expert would but without requiring specialist
or skilled users. This research describes the development of a prototype decision-support
system to assist non-specialist regulatory personnel, in the prioritisation of risks and
management activities relating to groundwater threats from hydrocarbon point-sources. The
research focused on the knowledge acquisition process using semi-structured interviews,
concept sorting and risk rating to identify the type of information required by the expert in their
decision-making processes and also to distinguish any differences of approach between experts
and 'non-experts'. A conceptual model was developed that represented expert decision-making
and problem solving. This model was used to develop the prototype decision-support system
which was subsequently evaluated by experts and users, resulting in system refinements. A
positive response to the usability and utility of the system was received from both expert and
user groups, suggesting a knowledge-based approach can be usefully applied to risk
management decisions associated with the protection of groundwater.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.