Suncream: packed. But how do we protect ourselves from environmental pollution?

Donna Murray is our expert in water quality modelling and training

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Most of us will be eagerly refreshing our preferred weather app this bank holiday, but will you also be using a mobile app to check for seaside pollution alerts? These systems can help us make judgements on the risks of swimming, or even building sandcastles, using data such as water samples taken over the last few months and years, recent rainfall and farming activities influencing today’s bacteria count, and reports on storm overflow releases in the last few hours or days.

Water regulations define the risk to human health in a precise way for recreational use activities like paddleboarding or windsurfing, and can inform us very practically about our holiday plans. We want to know the level of a certain bacteria that may cause illness from contact with environmental water bodies. Individual perception of risk come into play too, with everyone having to take their own decision to engage with water as much or little as they like - from enjoying the seaside views to paddling or swimming. Lifeguards are also able to offer advice to those choosing to bathe on British shores; a recent tannoy warning from lifeguards at a popular beach location called for swimmers to exit the water based on water quality alerts from a campaign group's Safer Seas & Rivers Service (SSRS) app.

Water quality indicators also can report on the long-term health to show change over time, year on year. Then if you can think about how much variation there is in the natural environment - coastal features, rain, sunshine killing bacteria, and fluctuating river flows with agricultural catchments and sewage overflows bringing inputs of bacteria - you can appreciate how a beach with an excellent/good/sufficient annual classification for the whole year has days where the apps suggest not to swim.

There is a whole range of water quality indicators to measure the health of the water environment - not just beaches - to include the plants and animal life and supporting features of the natural channels that have been adapted and engineered by humans over the centuries.

At its core, water quality is about inputs, processes and outputs. Understanding this, as well as the encouraging activities that are underway to manage pollution and enforce pollution regulations, is the first step in improving these indicators.

I am looking forward to leading an in-person training day on June 6th on the ‘Foundations of Water Quality and the Environment’, where I am sure we will discuss these ideas from a theoretical viewpoint to reflect on our current challenges. If you’d like to join me, and other industry professionals in water quality science, policy and regulation, find out more here.

Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Donna Murray

Consultant Scientist (Water Quality Modelling)

Donna is a Water Quality Modeller and Trainer with skills covering rainfall data (STORMPAC), river and coastal water quality modelling, estuary modelling, and model development and software testing. Donna has experience with water quality assessment procedures and has carried out catchment wide studies using SIMCAT, SIMPOL and QUESTS models. She is highly skilled in all aspects of the GIS SIMCAT SAGIS river model software - building, calibrating and running scenarios. This includes carrying out compliance assessments for permitting discharges to watercourses. Donna has also provided training courses on Water Quality and SIMCAT, QUESTS and the Urban Pollution Management (UPM) procedure.

2024-05-21 11:15:00