SiW 2017: write up of sensors for treatment works session

October 17th, 2017

Making sense of measurement by Oliver Grievson of Anglian Water

Chief among the themes of the two-day conference was greater collaboration between stakeholders including water companies, universities and the supply chain.

The drivers for instrumentation use and meaningful measurements were highlighted in the two keynote addresses. Despite all the hard won achievements of the industry, including 99.96 per cent compliance with drinking water standards, there were still 182 serious, significant or major incidents in 2016 along with a 68 per cent increase in issues between 2012 and 2016. Despite being very good at what we do, there is more to be done.

Keynote speaker: Chris Thomas, Deputy Director of Monitoring, Analysis and Innovation, Environment Agency

The conference heard that the number of samples taken in a year by the Environment Agency is now creeping into six figures, Despite the difficulties obtaining this data, it is, of course,  never enough – and this is where collaboration comes into play. There is pressure to make everyday testing more economical whilst maintaining the level of service. Innovation plays a part with new and more effective sensors, but it is through collaboration between all environmental stakeholders and sharing of data that the true efficiencies can be made. In a changing world, they must work together for the good of the wider environment.

New technologies

Throughout the conference, the development of new sensor technologies, new ways of working and collaboration was seen. This ranged from the cutting-edge work being done by universities, to companies working together with a large helping of trust to deliver solutions from the laboratory into the field.

An example of this was the use of Boron Doped Diamond (BDD) to deliver more accurate pH measurement. Though it may seem that we have been measuring pH perfectly well since the 19th century, with the help of material science, more robust, reliable measurements can be made, bringing about more efficiencies in the way that we, as an industry, operate.

Online metaldehyde monitoring presentation by Alice Elder, Affinity Water & Jeff Stubbs, Anatune

Metaldehyde use is another challenge and opportunity affecting the water industry as a whole. Used as a molluscicide by gardeners and farmers, the chemical is notoriously difficult to analyse in a laboratory environment, let alone online at a treatment works. A case study showed how a collaborative project between Affinity Water and its supply chain succeeded in converting a laboratory-grade analytical method to an on-line one within the water treatment process, capable of managing different inputs without the need for full laboratory staff to run it.

Demands on the water treatment process are becoming increasingly complex. However, ways of working found through this type of collaboration can help to manage this complexity on a day-to-day basis.


No modern conference on instrumentation is complete without a discussion on Big Data and this year’s Sensing in Water did not disappoint. Severn Trent Water’s case study of their project at the Spernal & Trimpley catchments is a shining example of how industry data can be used efficiently. Data collected by on-line instrumentation is distilled into usable information which refines operation. This allows the operating catchment, including the treatment ‘factory’ and associated system, to be managed rather than simply sampled and checked. In this way, the factory approach originally devised by the Dutch Foundation for Applied Water Research (STOWA) – where the process is refined to allow as much of the resource of wastewater to be recovered as possible in the most efficient way – can become a reality, all through the use of instrumentation and data.

Sensing in Water this year showed that instrumentation is a vital tool in the water industry but we must get the best possible value from the data that we collect. In order to do this, collaboration between water companies, academia and the supply chain is absolutely essential.