Satellites to monitor pollution levels in Lake Windermere from space

Lake Windermere in the Lake District National Park. Credit: PA

Satellites will be used to monitor pollution in Lake Windermere from space.

Environmental campaign group Save Windermere has partnered with the UK Space Agency, mapping service Map Impact and a UK mobile network provider to track pollution levels in England’s largest lake.

The concentration of chlorophyll – an indicator of phosphorous concentrations – will be analysed using satellite imagery and anonymised cellular network data to determine the number of people within the lake’s catchment.

This will allow teams to quantify the pressure from any human activity in the area and its impact on the lake, providing an up-to-date picture of climate change and mitigating potential risks to habitat biodiversity and human health.

Data will monitor pollution in Lake Windermere. Credit: Map Impact from ESA remote sensing data

The project will run alongside existing initiatives including monitoring from Environment Agency, the Big Windermere Survey and the Wider Love Windermere partnership.

The data will also allow the group to retrospectively examine the level of historical damage to the lake.

It follows sightings of blooms of blue-green algae in the National Park.

Lake Windermere is England's largest lake. Credit: PA

Matt Staniek, founder of Save Windemere, said: “The major cause of Windermere’s decline is sewage contamination, a consequence of insufficient investment in outdated infrastructure.

“We are advocating for an immediate halt to all discharges of treated and untreated sewage into Windermere.

“This research will provide us with concrete evidence on the profound ecological impacts of sewage on our lake.”

Dr Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “The UK has a long history of expertise and innovation in Earth observation, developing satellites to collect increasingly detailed data and using that information to build services that help protect our planet.

“This targeted funding for early-stage innovations is all about supporting fresh ideas and accelerating the rollout of powerful new tools that have the potential to bring benefits to a wide range of users both within and beyond the space sector.”

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “As one of our most important lakes, we welcome further studies into how the water quality of Lake Windermere can be improved.  

“Nutrients, climate change and extreme weather patterns, along with seasonal variations in tourist numbers are all putting Lake Windermere and its water quality under increased pressure. 

"However, no one organisation alone can address the challenges and the Love Windermere Partnership is steering long-term improvements, based on science and evidence, to improve the lake and surrounding areas.”

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