COUNCIL leaders are set to launch a hunt for a business partner to introduce real-time water testing at Boscombe Pier.

The councillor responsible for environment has publicly questioned the reliability of the current method used by the Environment Agency to assess water pollution risks.

Cllr Mark Anderson revealed at a recent full council meeting that work was being done to place sensors on the pier.

At present the Environment Agency uses Met Office data to make risk forecasts when water quality might be temporarily reduced due to rain, tide and wind conditions.

BCP Council said traditionally the only way to more accurately monitor and model water quality at a coastal site was through expensive and time-consuming laboratory tests.

The local authority has carried out a two-year pilot in Poole Harbour with firm UnifAI Technology to develop low-cost wireless sensors with AI to deliver more timely and accurate data.

The pilot was nominated as finalists for recognition at the 2021 Water Industry Awards.

Providing details on delivering the technology at Boscombe Pier, a BCP Council spokesperson said the authority is now planning to invite businesses to tender for the opportunity to develop the project, using the council’s Smart Place Infrastructure.

Councillor Mark Anderson, portfolio holder for environment and place, said: “Bathing waters in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole have a consistently high standard of water quality.

“Following our successful trials in Poole Harbour, I am really pleased that we could soon be developing a tool to provide residents and bathers with real time data on water quality at Boscombe.

“It will ensure that red flags for water quality will be based on facts rather than predictions and will hopefully cover more parameters than the EA basic bacteria count, which is a crude measure of quality.

“I believe this is one the first schemes in the country, if not the world, where AI is used to show when there is pollution present, and this will in the long term allow us to develop a new flag scheme to show water quality.”

Wessex Water is responsible for water quality in the BCP Council area. The Environment Agency act as regulator.

Dan Byles, chief commercial officer of UnifAI Technology, said: “The Poole Harbour project has delivered a remarkable amount of value in testing hardware, AI algorithms and an innovative approach to water quality monitoring, for a tiny budget.

“All parties invested time and resources beyond the monetary budget.”