For decades, environmental bodies and regulatory authorities in the UK have been monitoring river catchments across various parameters. This includes physical characteristics such as the water's turbidity, temperature and flow, as well as the chemical makeup of its constitution and the presence of bacteria, toxins and other contaminants.
Each of these parameters and pollutants requires a different monitoring method, making the overall endeavour challenging. Why, then, does the scientific community bother in the first place? What’s to be gained from performing such thorough and diverse testing on our bodies of water and the land surrounding them? We’ll delve into the motives and advantages of river catchment monitoring below.
Drinking water cleanliness
As the precious resource upon which all life depends, water is integral to our survival. The global population is growing by the day only makes it more in demand, which is why we must ensure we have a plentiful supply of it to meet all our needs. Monitoring river catchments can help us keep tabs on the volume of water passing through our land and ascertain which treatment methods are required to guarantee that it is suitable for drinking purposes.
Staying abreast of the concentration of toxins, bacteria, chemicals, and other contaminants in a river catchment is important for safeguarding the health of human life and flora and fauna in the surrounding area. Entire ecosystems depend on our waterways, with countless species reliant on the quality of the H2O therein to simply exist. Of course, conserving these rivers, streams, and other catchments is blind without adequate monitoring, so implementing the relevant infrastructure is a key ecological task.
Understanding industrial impact
As well as observing the knock-on effects of contaminated water on the plants and animals which live within it, monitoring river catchments can also help us trace these substances back to their source. More often than not, they originate from anthropogenic industrial activity, as heavy metals, chemicals, and other damaging pollutants can leach into the environment. Enriching our understanding of how our actions impact river catchment areas can help inform planning strategies to avoid doing so again.
Given that tens of thousands of chemicals are in circulation today, it’s only logical that there are a great many of these about which we know very little. Those suspected of potentially damaging public and environmental health are often termed “contaminants of emerging concern”, and any research into how they behave over time, break down in our atmosphere and interact with other lifeforms can add to our burgeoning knowledge of them. As such, monitoring river catchments can also help the cause of science.