A 13-year-old pupil from Cornwall has found a new way to see sewage discharges using satellite imagery.

Arthur Foster, a pupil at Mullion School, has adapted existing satellite image feeds to monitor sewage pollution that a fixed sampling station may be missing.

Spotting sewage from space helps to reveal the true scale of pollution levels in UK waterways. Using near real-time satellite imagery also shows that sampling stations are often not monitoring the full extent of sewage discharges because they are in fixed locations whereas the data from satellites give a ‘star’s eye’ view of the nation’s rivers and waterways.

Falmouth Packet: Arthur has found a new way to find out how much sewage is in waters across the UKArthur has found a new way to find out how much sewage is in waters across the UK (Image: IRIS)

Tracking sewage in our waters could decrease pollution levels in areas without sophisticated water quality monitoring and inform regulators who could use this programme to decide whether to allow water companies to discharge raw sewage into rivers.

Arthur has developed his water quality monitoring programme using satellite imagery that’s free to access and easy to operate.

He hopes he can inspire others to also become ‘satellite sewage spotters’ which could lead to a national people-powered monitoring network adding data and information to the current debate around sewage discharge end enforcement.


Arthur wanted to find a way to track pollution in our rivers. He said: “I wanted to find a way to track pollution so that people could see what was really happening to our rivers and by using satellites we get a really good view of the whole national network of waterways.

“Spotting sewage from space makes it easier to identify the times and places where discharged should be banned to avoid rivers already showing high levels of pollution.”

Arthur used Sentinel Hub to access satellite imagery of UK rivers. He applied a filter to track water quality in a new application of the technology.

The imagery shows the amount of chlorophyll in the water which is a measure of the number of algae in the water. Algae can grow rapidly in polluted water, and it can cause the water to become green and murky.

Arthur’s discovery has won praise from the environmental campaign group Surfers Against Sewage who said: “The fight to end sewage pollution requires a crystal-clear view of the true extent of the problem.

“Arthurs’s ingenious approach to tracking sewage in our waters should be another powerful tool in the campaign for clear rivers and seas and we can’t praise him enough for this incredible innovation.

“Arthur is a true Ocean Activist, taking action to help protect waters.”