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Water monitoring


Post-pandemic environmental monitoring


The coronavirus pandemic presents significant challenges to the collection of environmental data. However, as Matt Dibbs, managing director at Meteor Communications explains, by utilising novel technology, water companies and the Environment Agency have been able to continue gathering key data in locations from Cornwall to Cumbria.


T


he Environment Agency and water utilities have statutory obligations to protect and enhance water resources;


and in order to fulfil these obligations they undertake large numbers of measurements to establish baseline data, detect trends, monitor mitigation measures, and identify sources of pollution from both point and diffuse sources. This involves making a range of measurements; either collecting samples for laboratory analysis or employing portable instruments in the field. To support these activities, rapidly deployable, automatic, remote monitoring systems have also been developed to provide real-time access to data 24/7. The Environment Agency’s Environmental


Sensor Network (ESNET) is operated by the National Laboratory Service. This agile monitoring capability of over 150 sites is providing a template for sustainable, resilient, environmental monitoring. ESNET is comprised of modular water quality monitoring systems that can be quickly and easily deployed at remote sites. The telemetry


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modules and website capability are developed and supplied by Meteor Communications. The laboratory analysis of samples is vitally


important and allows industry and regulators to analyse for an extensive array of parameters. These samples inform a better understanding of longer term trends and facilitate the monitoring of trace and emerging pollutants. However, water bodies are highly dynamic environments. Precipitation, flow and the intermittent or diurnal nature of process and agricultural effluents mean that in some circumstances it is necessary to employ enhanced high-resolution monitoring techniques to provide evidence upon which informed operational and policy decisions can be made.


REAl-TiME, HigH-REs wATER quAliTy MoniToRing sysTEMs The Environment Agency uses two main types of continuous water quality monitors; a fixed, cabinet or kiosk based system, and a portable version which is housed in a rugged case. Evidence from these systems is utilised by environment planners, ecologists, fisheries and environment management teams across the agency. These continuous water


quality monitoring systems have been developed and refined over the last 20 years, so that they can be quickly and easily deployed at almost any national location; delivering data via telemetry within minutes of installation. This high-intensity monitoring capability substantially improves the temporal and spatial quality of data. The rapid deployment of these monitors now enables the agency to respond more quickly to pollution events. Each system is built around a battery-powered


multi-parameter water quality sonde; situated in the river or located in a bankside flow-through chamber, with samples being taken at 15 minute intervals. Typically, the sondes are loaded with sensors for measuring parameters such as dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, conductivity, turbidity, ammonium, Blue Green Algae and chlorophyll. Additionally, the systems can incorporate an automatic sampler which can be triggered when pre-determined conditions arise. This means that event-triggered samples can be made available for subsequent laboratory investigation. Measured data is transferred securely to the Meteor Data Cloud, where stakeholders access


November 2020 Instrumentation Monthly


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