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From sewer to river: environmental monitoring tools designed for agility

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2023 has been another year where conversations about the quality of UK waterways have been high in household and workplace conversations and mainstream media.

Water companies have faced both harsh criticism and monetary fines over operational decisions that have resulted in pollution events. In 2022, one utility received a record fine of £90 million.

Publication of bad performance by these water companies only further erodes public trust. There is some understanding that major infrastructure problems can only be solved with significant capital investment, but there is still a general undercurrent and feeling that most companies could do better.

In response to rising levels of both pollution and public criticism, the UK government introduced the Environment Act 2021 (EA21), which became law in November 2021. Within EA21, Part 5 Section 82 requires accountability from each wastewater company in England for the implementation of large-scale water quality monitoring programs for effluent discharge.

Each application requires a different approach, so agile tools will be the best investment efforts toward compliance. For example, pressure drops and spikes may be a functional indicator of a problem at a pump station or sewer rising main, so pressure monitoring is important. However, pressure tells us nothing about water quality, which is necessary for sampling outfalls into lakes and streams. 

  • Water companies have faced both harsh criticism and monetary fines over operational decisions that have resulted in pollution events

In 2017, Syrinix, now a Badger Meter brand, began working with prominent UK utility Anglian Water to develop a high-resolution pressure monitoring application to detect breaks on singular rising mains (pressurized sewage transport pipes). When a break occurs on a rising main, raw sewage directly escapes the pipeline, meaning rapid detection and mitigation are essential to minimise any environmental impact.

The pressure sensors, deployed at pump stations are set to collect data at 128 samples/second and summarise to give a minimum, mean, and maximum pressure for each minute.

The summary pressure data is sent to a cloud analysis platform for viewing (and managing data and devices).

By analysing this one-minute summary data stream, an automated algorithm extracts the minutes spent in specified pressure “zones”, categorized as:

  • Low static head
  • Normal static head
  • High static head
  • Low delivery pressure
  • Normal delivery pressure
  • High delivery pressure

A break alert is triggered when the rising main delivery pressure falls below 80% of what is deemed to be the normal operating level over a specified period, with a drop in delivery pressure, often coupled with a drop in static head, indicative of a break.

Graph A: Graph A shows the rising main in a normal operating state showing the delivery pressure and static head within acceptable limits.

Graph B: Graph B shows a break on the rising main, showing the delivery pressure and static head below acceptable limits.

This alert goes straight to the utility operational control centre, giving time for a response to be planned and prioritised. With this data, technicians can walk the main and quickly identify the burst location to minimise seepage, improving operational costs and efficiency and curtailing environmental impacts.

Currently, more than 1,000 Syrinix pressure sensors are placed for this purpose across six UK utilities, with additional benefit gained from performance monitoring which identifies asset failures and other fault conditions such as poorly performing pumps and passing non-return valves. With the integration of utility SCADA data to compare and verify the pressure findings, data can confidently feed operational planning and repair plans, giving the utility real value.

Badger Meter also looks to solve the second part of EA21 legislation: measurement of river water quality.

Two field-proven and regulator-compliant packaged solutions designed specifically for measuring water quality in rivers are now available, utilising 25 years of trusted s::can sensor technology. These flexible solutions measure for the five monitoring parameters required in the act (temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, pH, and ammonia), backed up by a suite of offerings to ensure that utilities can continue to remain compliant should these boundaries change.

With successful global monitoring projects on famous waterways such as The Ganges in India and the Danube in Germany, Badger Meter is well-placed to offer solutions to utilities looking for an experienced partner with the ability to deliver a flexible and modular approach to meet all legislative requirements.

Bringing everything together with IoT technology and data analytics

At Badger Meter, our goal is to unite all individual data silos into one smart water solution, (sewer, CSO pressure management with environmental and river water quality) which will enable water companies to view and manage every aspect of EA21.

Need to think more about environmental monitoring? Think no further. For more examples