Water quality services

Our nationally recognised team carries out scientific investigations of water quality problems ranging from issues caused by our industrial legacy to supporting the implementation of the Water Framework Directive.

Our services include water and sediment quality sampling to investigate the scale, nature and source of problems in a range of aquatic environments from ponds to reservoirs, rivers and estuaries.

Using the data that we collect, we diagnose the causes of water quality problems and undertake source apportionment in order to determine programmes to manage these issues.

Scenic view of lake and hills

We also offer catchment-scale and in-lake nutrient budget investigations, as well as the development of nutrient and water budgets. We work with, and lead, large consortia to provide integrated water management for large-scale projects such as water resource planning, Water Framework Directive studies and Bathing Water Directive investigations.

In addition to research and monitoring based on data collection, we can carry out desk-based services including the analysis of long-term data trends and reviews of water quality datasets and management options.

Safe drinking water

We routinely undertake work for UK water companies to provide information and advice on ensuring the supply of safe drinking water. This includes investigations into taste and odour issues in reservoirs across the UK, including geosmins, metaldehyde and MIB.

Blue-green algae

A bloom of blue-green algae.

A bloom of blue-green algae

Our freshwater team is one of the country’s leading providers of analysis and interpretation of phytoplankton data, including data relating to nuisance toxic blue-green algae and diatom species. The team advises on plankton issues, including the development, impact assessment and management of blue-green algal blooms.

We undertake investigations into algal blooms in water bodies ranging from small privately owned ponds to reservoirs belonging to water companies and waterbodies used for recreational purposes.

Lakes and protected sites

Our services also cover the development of lake management plans, including lake restoration strategies and implementation of management recommendations.

Our work includes condition assessments of protected sites on behalf of Natural England to identify the source of water quality problems and inform their management and restoration. This includes water and sediment sampling to identify key nutrient inputs to lakes and rivers, in order to aid the development of nutrient reduction action plans to improve water quality.

These studies often incorporate catchment walkover surveys to identify point source and diffuse pollution and to prioritise catchment management options to reduce inputs. We have developed nutrient budgets for a number of SSSI sites with recommendations on potential in-lake restoration actions.

  • Display of a hand-held water monitoring device
  • Scientist gathering water samples

Water quality management for open water swimming

With the rise in popularity of open water swimming, there is also a need for short-term and rapid water quality assessments, particularly with respect to potential pathogens. Each year in the run up to triathlons and swim events we are involved in a number of intensive water quality management and monitoring programmes that help to determine whether the events should proceed.

Open water swimming at Salford Quays

Open water swimming at Salford Quays

These have included the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games triathlon and our ongoing monitoring at Salford Quays, the 2014 Commonwealth Games triathlon at Strathclyde Loch, the Open Water Marathon Swim at the Serpentine, the London 2012 Olympic triathlon, the Great Swim series and numerous Iron Man UK events.

Aeration and oxygenation

Oxygenation unit being installed at Salford Quays., Manchester

Oxygenation unit being installed at Salford Quays.

We also have extensive experience of aeration techniques for use in water quality management and restoration. Our long experience of working on the Manchester Ship Canal and Salford Quays has given us an unprecedented understanding of the management of large urban water bodies.

Pollution responsePollution discharging from a pipe into a small stream

We are also experienced in pollution response. This includes a number of our staff being fully trained in the use of hydrogen peroxide equipment, a particularly powerful water quality management tool in the event of pollution incidents. Our extensive knowledge of the effectiveness of such techniques resulted in us being commissioned by the Environment Agency to develop best practice guidelines, define operational procedures and advise on health and safety for its use.


All our reports on water quality investigations are designed to be acceptable to the regulatory authorities. Our reports have been used to plan asset improvement schemes and for water resource management planning. Investigations are frequently carried out as part of environmental impact assessments.

If you have any queries, please contact Dr Michael Dobson, divisional director.
Alternatively you can email us here. Or call 0161 442 8938.