Wastewater Monitoring

Most of us nowadays take it for granted that when we go to fill a glass of water at the tap, cook up a fish freshly caught in the local river or go for a swim in the sea, we will not be putting ourselves in danger. For this to be possible, however, scientists are constantly hard at work behind the scenes, making sure that the quality of our water is the highest that it can be.


Given the necessity of water for the continuation of human life, the importance of water quality monitoring is indisputable. From reservoirs and lakes to estuaries and coastal bodies of water, monitoring of water quality is critical to the maintenance of a healthy, safe and sustainable environment. The practice of water quality monitoring is carried out by states across the world and covered by local, national and international regulations.

However, the UN’s World Water Assessment Programme reports that around two million tons of sewage and wastewater is disposed of in bodies of water every day. Some of this wastewater is treated, but much of it is not. This can only serve to reinforce the vital importance of wastewater monitoring.

Primary Aspects of Wastewater Monitoring

The practice of wastewater monitoring has been developed to include several primary elements. Firstly, results of monitoring are used to uncover any trends of changes that materialize in bodies of water over time. Monitoring should be carried out regularly over a sustained period of time in order to be able to detect short- and long-term developments.

By monitoring water quality regularly, it is possible to build up a highly detailed picture of the specificities of the water body, discovering any existing or underlying issues as well as problems that are likely to emerge in future. One example of an insight gained in this way is the fact that, over the past decade, the agricultural use of fertilisers has led to a 20 per cent increase in global levels of nitrogen pollution of rivers.

Data obtained from water quality monitoring programmes is also critical in developing and designing pollution management and prevention strategies. Such strategies are more important than ever before in light of the fact that 70 per cent of untreated industrial waste is disposed of directly into the world’s waterways.

Monitoring data is also central in determining whether or not water pollution regulations are being complied with by governments, businesses and communities. Data is equally important for calculating whether or not the water quality goals of pollution management strategies are being achieved, and if not, what changes are necessary.

While levels of industrial waste disposal are somewhat predictable and manageable, emergencies are not yet still require similar strategies to be conceived in order to minimize damage and clean up contamination. Data from water quality monitoring programmes is integral to the development of appropriate strategies to manage to aftermath of oil spills, floods, radiation and mass erosion.

Wastewater Quality Monitoring Processes

As useful as the data gathered from water quality monitoring is, it’s usually not so easy to obtain. A number of techniques are employed by scientists to produce results, among them sediment analysis and the sampling of chemical conditions.

Examination of marine biological tissue is used to test for residues of oils, metals, pesticides, nutrients and dissolved oxygen, delivering valuable information regarding the health of the aquatic ecosystem. Additional valuable insights are obtained by monitoring temperature, turbidity, flow and erosion.

Ultimately, wastewater monitoring is a vital aspect of maintaining a healthy and sustainable environment. As the impact of human activity on the planet continues to grow, water quality monitoring becomes ever more important.