Water quality refers to the biological, chemical and physical makeup of the water. There are always natural changes in water quality, but industrialisation, population growth, climate change and land-use change have meant more pollutants are entering water systems than ever before. These pollutants alter entire ecosystems and present a danger to human health.

This pollution can be very sudden and dramatic - the BP oil spill made headlines for months. Other pollution, however, is sometimes harder to spot. Nitrogen and phosphorous, for example, quietly enter the environment as by-products of industrial processes. The resulting nutrient-rich water system can actually be harmful for aquatic life, with algae using up all the oxygen and creating ‘dead zones’.  

There is also the financial cost and the toll on human health. Nitrogen pollution alone costs Europe an estimated £60-280 billion per year, and about 10 million Europeans drink water with unsafe levels of nitrate.

CEH work on water quality

Projects

Monitoring sites

Research facilities

Detail from Land Cover plus Crops Map 2015 showing crop types
Digital mapping of arable cropping on an annual basis
Microscopic life in soil
How can soil health be better measured and managed?
Collage of images representing the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation
Helping regional businesses make the move to a lower carbon economy
Somerset Levels
Long-term strategies for the UK's largest wetland area
Mekedatu, place where the Kaveri River flows through a narrow ravine. (CC BY 2.0) By Renjith Sasidharan https://www.flickr.com/photos/renjithks/3845336695
Upscaling local water management interventions to inform larger-scale decision-making in the Cauvery basin, India
Monitoring phytoplankton at Windermere
Investigating extreme weather impacts on lake ecosystems
Docks at Liverpool
Presenting research to international audiences

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