The INTCATCH project is a partnership between 20 organisations from seven European countries. It aims to revolutionise the way we monitor water quality in river and lakes, making it easier to combat the many pollution pressures they face.
Water pollution and pollution monitoring
Rivers and lakes across Europe are still far more polluted than they should be. Heavy metals and oils leak into them through storm water from roads, and waste water and sewage from misconnected plumbing and pipes. Rural rivers suffer from sediment, pesticides and nutrient run off from fields.
We know these problems exist, but until now it’s been difficult to pinpoint and access all the pollution sources. The waterways network is massive and, even with the help of citizen scientists, it’s very difficult to monitor the network properly, let alone in real time.
Water quality monitoring strategies have not significantly changed in years. They still usually involve an officer going to site and sending a sample to a lab, where tests are run with the results available two or three weeks later. This approach can help map the average local pollution but has limited impact in pin pointing specific sources of pollution, particularly when the pollution source are diffused. This therefore prevents Agencies, organisations, landowners and local communities from improving water quality across a larger area and fails to capture pollution events and extremes.
INTCATCH aims to fill this gap.
How INTCATCH will improve understanding of pollution
It will do this by bringing the laboratory to the field – developing and testing floating ‘robot labs’ in the form of remote-controlled boats and fixed sensors. The boats will use probes and have robust, highly accurate technology to test the water in real time for known problem substances.
The floating labs offer huge benefits for rivers and local communities who care about them and want to stop localised pollution. Rather than relying on experts, ordinary citizens will be able to use the boats to collect evidence themselves and find out just how healthy their local river is.
The sensors and boats will be linked to user-friendly online decision support software to help communities and authorities make decisions about when, where and how to best help the river.
Volunteering with INTCATCH
The four-year project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.