The Challenges of Continuous Water Quality Monitoring

Neha Bonny is the author of this article

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Continuous water quality monitoring poses several challenges that need to be addressed to ensure effective water management. 

Challenge 1: Cost

Deploying thousands of monitors across England comes with a hefty price tag of £3-5 billion. High-quality sensors, sampling devices, and data loggers require significant upfront investment. Additionally, establishing robust databases, data integration software, and secure data storage solutions adds to the financial burden.

Challenge 2: Data

Making the most of the collected data is crucial to justify the investment. While the immediate focus is on installing monitors, handling large datasets, and meeting regulatory requirements, the long-term potential for insights is exciting. The data can help identify pollutant sources, assess ecological health, and evaluate drinking water safety. However, standardising and accessing the data remains an ongoing challenge.

Challenge 3: Technology

Real-time water quality monitoring brings various technology-related challenges. Availability, accuracy, robustness, reliability, scalability, interoperability, and security of monitoring technologies are vital considerations.

Monitoring techniques must be adaptable to different conditions and accurate in varying weather and water chemistry. Ensuring instrument reliability and resolution, particularly for determinants like ammonia, requires establishing new standards if necessary.

Exploring alternative technologies like remote visual sensing can enhance spatial coverage and give an understanding of river health.

Challenge 4: It’s not all about sewage!

Pollution sources extend beyond wastewater networks. Diffuse pollution and agricultural sources often go unmonitored, despite their impact. Integrating monitor data with catchment models and employing microbial source tracking can help quantify sources of pollution and develop comprehensive approaches to improve river health.

Combining monitor data with integrated catchment models like WRc’s SIMPOL could be one approach to quantify sources of pollution and determine the best, integrated approach for improving river health.

Similarly, microbial source tracking could help to understand impact and harm from different pollution sources, as outlined by my colleague Daisy Pinn in a recent article in IoW magazine.

Challenge 5: Do we have all the skills?

Various skills are necessary to make section 82 successful, including planning, installation, maintenance, database management, data analysis, water quality expertise, modelling and pollution problem-solving. Bringing together a diverse range of skills is crucial to unlocking the benefits of continuous water quality monitoring.

Challenge 6: Communication

Arguably the biggest challenge of them all! Effective communication poses a significant challenge. Water quality data can be complex to analyse and interpret, requiring expertise. Adopting an open, collaborative, and independent approach is essential to ensure that data shared with the public and stakeholders is clear and meaningful.

Addressing these challenges will lead to improved accuracy, reliability and overall benefits of water quality monitoring systems.

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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Neha Bonny


2023-06-28 14:00:00