Placing the Tankerton buoy

A real-time water quality testing buoy has been launched in the Thames Estuary off Tankerton to monitor the safety of the bathing water.

The quality of bathing waters is an important public issue and Southern Water is taking a lead as a key custodian, placing this device at the forefront of a wider programme across the south. 

For months, Southern Water has worked with the Environment Agency, local authorities, Proteus Instruments, and the University of Portsmouth, to facilitate the launch of two buoys this summer. Canterbury City Council and Southern Water are partnering to deliver this sophisticated 12-month pilot, testing technology that hasn’t been deployed in this way before.

The sophisticated device to be fixed to a buoy around 400 metres offshore of Tankerton beach

If successful, lessons from this project may be used to inform future schemes. 

The pilot is a UK first and will give residents live updates on the water in one of the area’s most popular swimming locations. Southern Water are also working closely with Havant Borough Council to launch another water quality testing buoy in Hayling Island. The Kent monitoring device is fixed to a buoy around 400 metres offshore of Tankerton beach. It automatically measures the water quality every few minutes, which Southern Water and its partners will openly share with the public later this year, once calibration and further testing is complete. 

Preparing the buoy for launch

Dr Nick Mills Head of Southern Water’s Storm Overflow Task Force said: “This is a huge step forward in water quality technology in the UK and seeing this happen now is incredibly exciting as it is the culmination of many months of hard work. This shows that Southern Water is taking the lead on providing transparent data on the quality of our coastal waters and demonstrates what we can achieve when we all work together. 

Keeping people safe

“We know our Beachbuoy service is incredibly popular, giving near real time data on the timing of storm releases, and this new technology will build on this success and deliver what is really needed – hard data on what the condition of the water really is at that moment in time. This is one of many technologies and techniques that we are exploring to better monitor water in some of our most popular bathing spots and keep people safe.”

 Cllr Ashley Clark, Canterbury City Council’s Cabinet Member for Enforcement and Open Spaces as well as very keen sea swimmer, said: “When it comes to dealing with sewage across the nation, there is a mountain to climb, and this will involve planners, developers and water companies coming together as well as proactive government support to deal with the rainwater from development that gets into the sewage system and overloads current capacity.

Save on bath water!

“This is a welcome step in the right direction and will provide useful reassurance to ensure the locals and visitors who use our coastline can do it safely and with a greater level of confidence. Sea bathing has many positive health benefits year-round in terms of exercise and a boost to the immune system. As a regular local sea swimmer I have noticed many more people are taking advantage of this. Our local water is the warmest in the UK over the summer period. For others who are both environmentally minded and cost conscious it can save on bath water!

“Locally, we have established a constructively-minded liaison group of three local councillors who meet with one of the directors of Southern Water to monitor progress and we are aware of other steps that are in the pipeline.”

By Ed

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