Published on: 05 Jul 2023
By: Pushpavani Murugesan
There is no doubt that over the past 20 years or so, the adoption of the Environment Agency’s MCERTS scheme for water monitoring has led to significant investment and improvements in the flow monitoring of regulated discharges. We are now seeing the Agency applying that same rigour to other regulated flow measurements, such as flow pass forward and event duration monitors (EDMs) for spills to storm tanks at treatment works.
The current furore about storm overflows, and the alleged misreporting, as well as implementation of the Environment Act, is bringing into sharp focus the need for high quality measurements to satisfy the demands of the public and lobby groups. It is also important for the water companies to be able to demonstrate, when appropriate, that pollution incidents are not always their fault!
WRc is pleased to play its part in this process, helping develop standards and testing instruments.
Indeed, we worked with the Environment Agency some years ago to develop MCERTS standards for water quality instrumentation; however, these have largely languished unnoticed on the MCERTS website. Few other instruments have gone through the same rigorous assessment process to demonstrate their fitness for purpose. Maybe those standards need to be dusted off and revised to encompass the river water quality monitoring required under the Environment Act?
Of course, good instrumentation is only one piece of the picture in relation to obtaining high quality data; instruments must be installed, operated and maintained in line with good practice. The MCERTS self-monitoring of flow scheme includes independent inspections of installations and auditing of companies’ QA processes to ensure that measurement quality is maintained. Too often, we still see instruments in other applications that have not been well installed or are seldom, if ever, maintained. If we are to have robust and reliable data to satisfy the needs of the regulator and the demands of the public, those processes need to be applied to all regulated, and many unregulated, measurements from abstraction to discharge. It could also be argued that we also need similar rigour for clean water distribution networks, with reductions in leakage being a significant driver for the industry, and again the regulator (in this case Ofwat) should be driving good practice, but maybe that’s a discussion for another day…