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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
  • 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
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.
  • 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