Portsmouth Water uses Earth Observation analysis from Rezatec to understand nitrate pollution

Rezatec, the innovative landscape intelligence company, has been using it unique Earth Observation (EO) techniques to provide Portsmouth Water with detailed insights into potential sources of nitrate pollution in its catchment.

Rising nitrate levels in Groundwater have been a concern of Portsmouth Water for some years and the company has endeavoured to understand more about the sources of this pollution. On top of the rising trend, fluctuations in nitrate levels are often seen to be somewhat correlated to water table levels but it has been suspected that significant ‘spikes’ in nitrate levels at a few of its boreholes may be caused by overland flows terminating in the significant number of chalk pits and sinkholes that are found in a wide band crossing the area’s predominant chalk geology.

The Downs and Harbours Clean Water Partnership, a partnership between Portsmouth Water, the Environment Agency and Natural England’s Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) programme, which has been in operation since 2008, enlisted Rezatec to find out more about how the effects of agricultural landscape management could be affecting the both the sources of drinking water and the environment, particularly the protected habitats of Portsmouth, Langstone and Chichester Harbours.

The Partnership was not only interested in land management related to farming but also that related to equine use, e.g. horse paddocks, stable yards, and dung heaps, which can all produce varying localised sources of nitrate pollution. The latter was included, owing to the significant level of horse ownership in Downs & Harbours project/Portsmouth Water supply areas.

Rezatec looked at the Lovedean and Northbrook areas of Portsmouth Water’s catchment area and used Earth Observation techniques to provide data analysis of the likely overland flow of nitrates, as well as mapping general agricultural land use, including crops types, which can provide an indication on the amount of nutrients and pesticides that could be applied to the land and therefore have an impact on diffuse pollution.  Rezatec then mapped these potential sources along with overland flow paths and sinkholes that allow nitrate pollution to enter the groundwater.

The results are presented in an interactive, online geo-spatial portal with dynamic maps and analytical risk analyses presented as user-friendly graphics and animations that allow Portsmouth Water to visualise their catchment area in a completely different way. This complements existing modelling of nitrate in groundwater and surface water systems  by Amec Foster Wheeler, the environmental consultancy.

Rezatec can aid the work of catchment managers by identifying hotspots of potential agricultural and anthropogenic pollution, mapping these alongside the topographic and hydrological landscape features, particularly sink holes, and analysing all these parameters together to provide a dynamic risk assessment of the likelihood of diffuse pollution across the catchments. This knowledge can then be used as a decision support tool to help develop mitigation strategies for both the Downs and Harbours programme and Portsmouth Water, under its own developing Catchment Management strategy, and local farmers to reduce levels of nitrates in the catchment.

Alastair Stewart is the Project Manager of the Downs and Harbours Clean Water Partnership at Portsmouth Water. He commented: “Rezatec has taken an exciting and innovative approach that may greatly increase our understanding of the relationship between sources of diffuse pollution and the landscape and how this affects the quality of water in the area.”

Philip Briscoe, Marketing Director at Rezatec added: “At Rezatec we thrive on deriving new EO techniques to support water companies improve water quality and reduce operational costs associated with water treatment, ground surveys and compliance. The challenge that Alastair and his colleagues set us to identify sources of nitrate pollution and its interaction with the landscape really played to our skills and experience.”

Rezatec uses advanced, scalable techniques to offer what it has termed ‘landscape intelligence’, which takes large volumes of Earth Observation data and uses it to analyse environmental risk and changes in agricultural land use. Rezatec now works with five UK water companies, including Scottish Water, South West Water and Bristol Water, leading the market in supporting catchment and general water quality management by identifying potential threats to the water supply, in particular from different sources of diffuse pollution.

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Bristol Water uses Rezatec landscape intelligence to support its water catchment management programme

Rezatec is deploying its landscape intelligence portal platform to work with Bristol Water on a ground-breaking project designed to gain a deeper understanding of the impact changing agricultural land use and soil erosion has on water quality in its catchment area.

The initiative has a particular focus on changing land use in the Blagdon Reservoir and Chew Valley Reservoir catchments. Rezatec’s portal based analytics process satellite and ground data to identify changing patterns of soil erosion and agricultural intensification, which have a significant impact on the quality of the water supply. The Rezatec landscape intelligence platform performs a forty year look back and processes data from 1972 to the present day so as to identify both short and long term changes in the landscape.  

Landscape factors, such as agricultural practices related to specific crop types, can have a significant bearing on water treatment costs. Diffuse pollution associated with fertilisers and pesticides applied during the crop growth cycle can make its way into upstream water catchments through runoff and soil erosion, necessitating its removal downstream through expensive treatment so as to maintain the quality of the overall water supply.  It is hoped that by identifying potential pollution risks before they become an issue, ongoing water treatment costs and the frequency of acute pollution events can be reduced, and requirements to invest in new water treatment infrastructure will be delayed or even avoided.

Matthew Pitts, Environmental Programme Delivery Manager for Bristol Water, said: “This new and exciting way of understanding our water catchments promises to bring valuable insights into how we can enhance the environment and manage risks to water treatment and supply.”

He added: “Using innovative, cutting-edge landscape analytics, we’re confident that we can gain a better understanding of the potential pollution risks within our catchment. This will help us to focus efforts towards achieving improved water quality in our reservoirs, bringing ecological benefits, reduced treatment costs and ultimately better value for our customers.”

Rezatec’s Philip Briscoe commented: “From our analysis of different sources of Earth, airborne and ground data, we derive high-value data products which provide our customers with business insight on a macro and micro scale. We’re delighted to be providing Bristol Water with landscape intelligence that helps them to make better business decisions to derive tangible benefits for both the company and its customers.”

The data products are accessible on a subscription basis to clients through Rezatec’s landscape intelligence portal that allows water companies to view detailed environmental information about their catchment areas, ultimately supporting informed business decisions. Rezatec analytics help manage risk to the water supply by monitoring changes to agricultural land use and peat and soil integrity at a local and regional scale.

As well as Bristol Water, Rezatec is bringing similar insights to other water companies and looks set to benefit many more in the coming months.

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Rezatec featured on Farming Today, Radio 4 in response to big data release annoucement by Liz Truss, Defra

In response to the announcement today from Liz Truss, the Secretary of State for Defra, Rezatec featured on Farming Today, Radio Four to comment on the news that huge amounts of free environmental data to be released to help stimulate the farming and environmental sectors. Great for Earth Observation (EO) companies, such as Rezatec, who will be able to develop many more cost-effective apps for agri, water & environment sectors from yield optimisation to water and soil management. You can listen here: https://lnkd.in/ePxuCjx ‘More Turbulence for the Dairy Industry, Farming Big Data & Giant Hogweed’ starting at 2mins 57secs.

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