Warleigh Weir investigation
We are undertaking an investigation centred around Warleigh Weir, on the River Avon, near Bath. Our work is focussed on understanding the current water quality of the river upstream of Warleigh, including tributaries such as the Frome and Midford Brook, against bacteriological standards, the sources of bacteria and options to reduce concentrations at Wessex Water’s assets, private treatment works and wider diffuse rural and urban locations. In addition to this investigation, we are working with an Artificial Intelligence (AI) provider to develop a real-time water quality notification system.
There is currently no technology that can continuously measure the concentration of these bacteria in rivers, which means it is not possible to provide people with this information in real time. Instead, samples have to be collected by hand and taken to a laboratory where the bacteria are analysed under controlled conditions, which takes around three days.
However, there are many readily available sensors that can provide robust real-time measurements of other water quality indicators, including temperature, pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen and river flow. We are working with UnifAI, a company specialising in the use of AI technology, to trial an approach that uses algorithms to develop relationships between these readily measurable parameters and the concentration of bacteria in water.
The trial, which will take place between 2021 and 2023, will involve installing a series of sensors, collecting water samples and analysing bacteria in the laboratory. As more data is collected, the AI will develop these relationships, which will hopefully allow us to stop analysing samples in the laboratory and start providing the public with real-time water quality notifications about the level of public health risk.
Litter Free Coast & Sea
We have been working with the Litter Free Coast & Sea partnerships in Dorset and Somerset for nearly ten years. These are partnership-based projects focussing on the key issues of interest to local communities. The partnerships include Local Authorities, the Environment Agency, Catchment Partnerships and other stakeholders who are passionate about the quality of the coast and sea.
Activities are very varied, including developing local beach clean groups; running events for local communities to raise awareness, such as ‘Only Rain Down the Drain’; working with businesses to improve waste practices and reduce litter; and education opportunities within schools.
Examples of some of the projects are shown below, with more information available at Litter Free Coast and Sea – Dorset & East Devon.
BCP Council and shellfisheries
It is not just bathing or recreational waters which can be impacted by elevated bacterial levels from a wide range of sources. Within the Wessex region there are many designated Shellfish Waters, particularly in Poole Harbour, which support business and economic activities associated with shellfish production, sales and export.
During AMP7 (2020-2025) we are undertaking an investigation within Poole Harbour to better understand the bacteriological contributions from our assets (water recycling centres and storm overflows) compared to other sources. This will help to inform whether we do impact concentrations within shellfishery areas and if so, the level of impact.
In addition to this investigation, we are working with Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council, the local shellfishery businesses, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and an AI provider (UnifAI) to better understand the conditions that can cause a decline in water quality impacting shellfish harvesting. This is using water quality, bacteriological and norovirus data collected by all partners and linking this with data from sensors, asset operation, weather and tides to help predict when water quality may decline to notify shellfishery businesses to reduce harvesting, wastage and the reputational risks associated with recall notices, for example.