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“Questions looking for answers and vice versa: Environmental Regulation and Environmental Data". Dr Campbell Gemmell, SEPA. SEPA –who, what, how etc?. Our mission is to protect and improve the environment of Scotland

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“Questions looking for answers and vice versa: Environmental Regulation and Environmental Data". Dr Campbell Gemmell, SEPA.

Sepa who what how etc
SEPA –who, what, how etc?

  • Our mission is to protect and improve the environment of Scotland

  • To achieve 6 outcomes re: air, water, land, waste, engaged protected public, contributing to economic and social wellbeing

  • Annual targets and priorities set by Government.

  • See website www.sepa.org.uk

  • Scotland’s EPA

  • Implementing EU, UK, Scots environmental law

  • Excellent regulator and recognised authority on the environment

  • Wide activity range – policy to permitting and monitoring & reporting

  • 1240 staff, 22 offices, 4 labs, £61m t/o

  • Modern public body/ NDPB/Governance

Environmental data use in sepa
Environmental Data Use in SEPA

  • Effectiveness of ‘measures’ monitoring (ie are actions that we and others take having the expected effect)

  • Statutory reporting (EC Directives, eg Water Framework Directive)

  • To inform wider State of Environment Reporting (forthcoming report and conference)

  • Regulatory compliance assessment

Some common statistical questions
Some Common Statistical Questions

  • Is environmental quality getting better or worse ?

  • Has our regulatory activity had an effect on the environment ?

  • Is our monitoring representative ?

  • What confidence do we have in the class assigned to this waterbody ?

  • Is this data point an outlier ?

The monitoring challenge faced
The Monitoring Challenge Faced

  • Can we measure the environment effectively and efficiently?

  • Are the data we collect able to tell us what we want to know ?

Some current data quality issues
Some Current Data Quality Issues

  • Values at limit of detection – How should we handle censored (<‘s) data appropriately? Work underway within SEPA examining use of more robust techniques.

  • Unusually high (or low) values (outliers)

    • How should we detect these?

    • Work is underway to assess multivariate outlier detection methods.

Examples of data analysis
Examples of Data Analysis

  • To inform stakeholders – eg. Nitrates Directive (NVZ) consultation

  • To predict current conditions – eg. Bathing waters signage project

  • To inform effective regulation – eg. Tay Estuary improvements

  • To report on the State of Scotland’s Environment – eg. Diffuse Pollution, Data on Waste, climate change

  • To assess ‘uncertainty’ – eg. Confidence of Class

1 informing stakeholders nitrates directive
1. Informing Stakeholders – Nitrates Directive

  • EC Nitrates Directive required designation of Nitrate Vulnerable Zones if needed.

  • Analysis of risk to both surface and groundwater quality informed designation.

  • Historical data analysis undertaken by Environmental Assessment unit played key role.

  • Analysis made available via dedicated website.

  • Presentation of data enabled more effective communication of risk to stakeholders at public meetings involving farmers affected.

2 predicting current conditions bathing waters signage project
2. Predicting Current Conditions - Bathing Waters Signage Project

  • Aims to predict good/poor microbial quality

  • Inform users via electronic signs each day

  • Predictions based on near real time rainfall and river flow data monitored by SEPA

  • Predictions use Decision Tree models

  • Models proving successful in forecasting correctly against current standards

  • Looking promising for use with future (more stringent) EU directive standards

3 to inform effective regulation tay estuary waste water discharge pressures
3. To inform effective regulation - Tay estuary - Waste Water discharge pressures

= Waste Water Discharge

= SEPA Monitoring point

To inform effective regulation tay estuary ammonia inputs
To inform effective regulation - Tay estuary - Ammonia Inputs

  • Ammonia inputs decreased substantially when Dundee sewage discharge was removed in 2002.

4 to report on state of scotland s environment diffuse pollution
4. To report on State of Scotland’s Environment – Diffuse pollution

  • Diffuse pollution is a major pressure for all water body types

  • Quantifying diffuse pollution pressures and impacts is difficult because:

    • Diffuse pollution fluxes are very dependent on other factors (eg. weather, land management practices)

  • There is a need for development of improved process and statistical models for quantifying and understanding diffuse pollution pressures

To report on scotland s environment biodegradable municipal waste bmw
To Report on Scotland’s Environment: sources of pollutionBiodegradable Municipal Waste (BMW)

Wetter winters
Wetter winters Composting Rate

Consequences of altered river hydrology on stream chemistry
Consequences of altered river hydrology on stream chemistry Composting Rate

Dissolved Organic Carbon trends

5 to assess uncertainty confidence of class statistics
5. To Assess ‘Uncertainty’ – Confidence of Class Statistics

  • EC Water Framework Directive requires SEPA to quantify and report confidence in our quality classification scheme.

  • Confidence of Class statistics encapsulate the uncertainties

  • Confidence of Class statistics are used to prioritise programmes of measures.

Conclusions Statistics

  • SEPA collects a lot of environmental data

  • We need to make best use of it to answer a range of questions – we have lots of questions!

  • Appropriate statistical analysis and modelling of data are increasingly important to us

  • We want and need to embrace new assessment/ monitoring/ statistical methods and techniques where possible

  • We need to employ individuals who are able to undertake appropriate environmental data analysis – closely connected to policy and practice specialists