Drones help water testing for the Big Windermere survey

THE latest Big Windermere survey used drones to help one hundred volunteers conduct water testing around the lake.

Last Sunday, ‘citizen scientists’ completed sample testing around the lake and its tributaries. This is the second time this survey has been done this year, with the first one capturing Windermere in June.

Drone technology was used to collect samples from previously inaccessible areas, and they were the brain-child of Dale Colley from Scottish-based Altitude Thinking.

Dale said: “This is exactly the kind of challenge that Altitude Thinking was developed for – using technology to access inaccessible or difficult-to-reach locations. To date, we have focused on collecting water samples from anywhere in reservoirs that will provide information on water quality. In addition to this, we are also developing other remotely operated vehicles, whether that be an aerial, surface or submersible to collect samples from any body of water.”

The samples are now being analyzed by scientists at Lancaster University and other laboratories for concentrations of bacteria and nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which can cause issues for ecological and human health.

Dr Louise Lavictorie, head of science from the Freshwater Biological Association said: “It’s really important that we build up a seasonal picture of water quality, taking into account variable factors such as rainfall, temperature and visitor numbers. We can collectively plan the right interventions to tackle these issues.”

READ MORE: Science survey of Windermere’s water quality is in

The Big Windermere survey is run independently by Lancaster University and the Freshwater Biological Association. The funding was provided by the Love Windermere Partnership, which involves stakeholders such as The Environment Agency, The Rivers Trust, and Lake District National Park.

It also involves United Utilities, the water company that has been accused of allowing sewage discharges into the lake by MP Tim Farron and activist Matt Staniek. A United Utilities spokesperson said: “Over the past twenty years we have already invested £1.2 billion into improving storm overflows to reduce the amount and impact of spills.”

A spokesperson from Love Windemere said: “Sound scientific evidence is the key to better understanding the many and complex factors affecting water quality at Windermere and in the surrounding catchment.

“We welcome the opportunity to share any data compiled by others to feed into the comprehensive and funded sampling and research program that is already underway.”