Innovative flight approach secures industry award nomination (other abstractor ODI)
Working with environmental consultancy APEM, we’ve created an innovative approach to surveying thousands of square kilometres of land using ultra-high resolution photography.
With a decline in river flows and raw water quality in our catchment areas within Kent and Sussex, we needed to identify pollution sources and others who take water from the environment across almost 3,000 square kilometres of land.
Doing so on foot would involve battling inaccessible locations and consulting scores of landowners, so we worked APEM to complete aerial surveys – photographing every square centimetre of the ground with remarkable detail.
“Covering such a vast area of land on foot would be near impossible and we most certainly would not be able to capture the required level of detail,” said Simon Lohrey, South East Water’s Surface Water Manager.
“By carrying out aerial surveys we were able to capture magnificent detail of our catchment area in a short space of time.”
The crystal-clear imagery can highlight changes in vegetation density and colour, indicating water leakage, irrigation or nutrient accumulation while the infra-red camera can detect leaks on company-owned or private water pipes invisible to the naked eye.
Our team of scientists can now take a virtual walk through a digital 3D model of the land, zooming in and out to scrutinise the imagery and visit it time and again.
This approach allows us to survey large areas in a matter of hours, compared to days, weeks, or even months like a traditional ground-based approach.
As well as identifying causes of raw water decline, this work forms part of our commitment to engage with 20 per cent of other abstractors in two pilot catchments, to understand the cause of low river flows.
We recognise we are not the only abstractor of water, so identifying other abstractors will enable to us offer a range of help and advice including: water efficiency audits, calibration of irrigation machinery, fix leaking pipes and funding of on-farm infrastructure improvements such as rainwater harvesting or grey-water systems.
By working alongside all water abstractors we can help them to reduce their water demands and maximise the amount of water available to the environment. This work will further our understanding of the role we can play in making our catchments more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
The use of aerial imagery enables us to not just cover large areas of catchments, quickly. It also provides valuable data on environmental risks which we can use to help focus our activities and to target where our efforts are likely to deliver the greatest benefit.