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


Monitoring sites

Research facilities

ENTRAIN - digital river network
Engineering Transformation for the Integration of Sensor Networks: A Feasibility Study
A sample of CEH Land Cover® plus: Crops data
National maps estimate average fertiliser and pesticide applications
Windermere from Wansfell
Increasing the understanding of how lake ecosystems work
Screengrab from Environment Digimap’s Roam application showing Crop Map data
CEH Land Cover® Crop Map added to EDINA Environment Digimap® Service
Trout Beck, Moor House, Cumbria, UK
Forecasting Risk to upland water treatment assets from the Environmental Exacerbation of Dissolved Organic Matter levels