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The challenges of delivering Section 82 of the Environment Act

Published: 11 June 2024

Section 82 of the Environment Act 2021 hails a revolution in water quality monitoring, ushering in an era of real-time telemetry and fundamentally reshaping how we manage our precious water resources.

Currently, water quality monitoring is undertaken routinely and following an incident, but it requires boots on the ground and can’t be done in ‘real time’. To achieve the new legislation, water companies will need more permanent, technical solutions so they can monitor upstream and downstream in ‘real time’ at over 14,000 storm overflows and 9,000 sewage disposal works in England.

Access to the watercourse, planning permission to deploy technology into the river, the selection of mixing zones to monitor, the quality of measurement, vandalism, power, and ongoing maintenance are all challenges which need to be thought through before a solution is reached.

Water companies are required to start showing progress towards finding a solution from next year, and forward-thinking organisations are partnering with suppliers to run trials. However, this is a marathon, not a sprint, as total rollout is not required until 2035.

What is Section 82?

Section 82 of the Environment Act relates to monitoring the quality of water potentially affected by discharges from water company wastewater assets, such as storm overflows from the sewer network and sewage disposal treatment works.

Sewerage undertakers in England must continuously monitor the quality of water in watercourses upstream and downstream of an asset outfall for the following parameters:

  1. Levels of dissolved oxygen
  2. Temperature
  3. pH values
  4. Turbidity
  5. Levels of ammonia

Monitoring must be at least every 15 minutes at high-risk times and can be every hour at other times.

Data should be published in near real-time and include contextual information, such as event duration monitoring. Sewerage undertakers should focus on high-priority sites in the initial phase of installations, with total rollout to be complete by 2035.

Overcoming the challenges

Solving Section 82 has many challenges to overcome before water companies can be confident in their solution.

The bigger picture

To deliver a solution, water companies may need to think about the bigger picture. This is not just about installing monitors and walking away. There is the initial survey to identify the best location, overcoming access issues, installation, calibration, interpretation of data, and ongoing maintenance. It’s a full end-to-end capability requirement and partnership may well be the best way to tackle this, from the water companies' perspective. Water companies should look for a partner that can provide all these services in a turnkey solution to ensure compliance and allow them to focus their attention on their customers.

Sustainable water management

Adler & Allan has a plethora of experience monitoring water quality on routine and reactive projects for water companies and a number of aligned industries, including airports, utilities, and manufacturing. Complementing this is another group company, Detectronic, who provide precision intelligence across the wastewater network using market-leading monitoring products that are designed in-house

We are currently undertaking trials with Sheffield University and Xylem to find a robust and realistic solution to this problem. By embracing real-time telemetry and partnering with experienced solution providers, you can navigate the challenges, unlock the potential, and emerge as a leader in sustainable water management.

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