Nutrient monitoring Press Release: Successful trials with Wessex Water of flexible catchment permitting

May 30th, 2019

Flexible permitting will be explored at SWIG workshop on 3 July

 Environment Agency update on trials with Wessex Water, with early promising results

  • Workshop will explore developments in the way nutrients are monitored
  • Suitable technologies and opportunities for innovation will be identified

Changes to the way nutrients are monitored in the environment will be the theme of a workshop organised by the Sensors for Water Interest Group (SWIG) in Solihull on 3 July 2019. The event will help water utilities, the supply chain and other stakeholders understand new approaches to flexible permitting being trialled by the Environment Agency (EA) for England.

Nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen are essential for biological systems, but high levels can lead to problems including the eutrophication of surface waters and undesirable vegetative growth. The EA has started trialling new ways of regulating environmental consents using Catchment Permitting and Catchment Nutrient Balancing approaches.

Developments in Nutrient Monitoring will be chaired by Environment Agency technical advisor Andrew Chappell and features a presentation from Barrie Howe, senior advisor in water quality.

Barrie Howe says, “The Environment Agency plays an important role in regulating to protect water quality and ensuring wastewater treatment works (WwTW) are compliant. Our remit also includes monitoring the state of the environment and understanding whether our interventions are working.

“We’ve been developing new approaches to permitting to make it more flexible and fit for the issues faced today. The Water Framework Directive set much tighter phosphorus limits and we also want to find better ways of regulating discharges that reduce the cost and carbon emissions.”

Successful trials

Traditionally permitting has looked at each WwTW in isolation, but a more flexible Catchment Permitting approach is being trialled very successfully with Wessex Water. The Agency is also anticipating an upturn in the number of water companies wanting to trial multi-stakeholder Catchment Nutrient Balancing, especially engaging farmers to reduced run-off of phosphorus from agricultural land.

“We can link the permits across a scheme together – right up to catchment level,” says Howe. “By taking in the performance of all the WwTWs and the receiving waters as a whole ecological system, permitting can accommodate and drive the most carbon- and cost- efficient use of assets, along with water quality.

“With Catchment Nutrient Balancing there is the potential for multiple benefits and we have developed an approach that we are beginning to trial with water companies. Along with reduced cost and carbon footprint there is the opportunity for enhanced biodiversity and flood risk mitigation, for example.”

Both permitting initiatives will require focused measurements to demonstrate the effectiveness of proposed schemes and the SWIG workshop will help identify what those monitoring needs are. Participants will look at a variety of technologies that monitor and control key nutrients and help water companies and other stakeholders select suitable instruments for nutrient management projects and identify opportunities for innovation.

SWIG’s Developments in Nutrient Monitoring workshop takes place at the National Motorcycle Museum near Solihull on 3 July 2019.