In a pioneering project Anglian Water contracted APEM to carry out ultra-high resolution aerial surveys of the entire east coast from the Thames Estuary to the Humber Estuary, searching for signs of potential pollution.

Almost 600 potential sources were identified, with 65 highlighted as high risk sources. These previously unknown sites would have been difficult, time consuming and costly to identify on the ground and Anglian Water’s pollution teams were able to quickly prioritise them.

Aircraft over coast

Bathing water standards

Tougher European legislation means beaches need to meet stricter criteria, or face having to put up signs warning people against going in the sea.

All bar one of the bathing waters in Anglian Water’s region meet the new tighter standards, with 91 per cent classed as good or excellent. Even so, Anglian Water was keen to continue improving standards and this meant going beyond looking at its own assets to investigate a wide range of potential sources of pollution along the entire coast.

Benefits of aerial surveys

Doing this on the ground would have been difficult, slow and costly. Using a high resolution coastal aerial survey meant that Anglian Water was able to cost-effectively identify sites of concern, with little or no disturbance to people or wildlife.

The coastal survey required around 25 hours of flying time, collecting tens of thousands of images that were examined by APEM’s experienced image analysts. Signs of both direct and diffuse pollution were recorded.

Potential sources of pollution included slurry from farms, animal waste from fields, sediment from river dredging, fouling from roosting sea birds, trade waste and poorly maintained private cess pits.

The Results

  • 440 km of coastline surveyed
  • Almost 600 sources of potential pollution identified
  • 65 high risk sources identified
  • Ground teams able to prioritise the sites and investigate them
  • 3,000 km of flight lines flown for the survey
  • 30,000 high resolution images gathered and analysed