Hydrographical surveys: Navigating the challenges

Steven Pearson – Senior SurveyorMay 22, 2024

Over the last few months, with the rain pouring across many part of the UK, our water-based teams have been in high demand, diligently conducting hydrographical surveys in various waterways nationwide. Whilst many of the challenges our surveyors face can be predicted and mitigated against, hydrographical surveys present a unique set of challenges, many of which are unpredictable. In this blog we shed light on the challenges that hydrographical surveys can present and the solutions we employ to overcome them.

Hydrographical surveys: Navigating the challenges

The biggest challenges

Environmental factors pose one of our biggest challenges when conducting hydrographical surveys, as these are less easy to predict. To plan our schedule to the best of our ability we constantly monitor local weather reports and conditions, as well as flood models and predictions, and where applicable tidal times. Of course, weather conditions can change, so when on site, we always keep a close eye on weather updates. High winds and waves can impact the safety of our team as well as our ability to get accurate data readings, and precipitation can also impact water depths, turbidity and flow.

Preparation and adaption

When assessing and quoting for a new job, our highly experienced team will conduct thorough due diligence. The team will familiarise themselves with the location to ensure that not only are our quotes accurate, but that we have the right equipment with us when we attend site.

Depending on the size and scope of the job we may visit the site in advance. We always request as much information about the location from a client as possible. We also utilise tools including Google Earth and Google Maps. If the location is in England or Wales, we assess information about water levels and patterns from gauging stations, which are linked to flood warning systems.

When access proves challenging

Gaining permission from landowners to access land isn’t normally an issue and is something we leave to our clients to negotiate. When it comes to access, vegetation is usually the biggest challenge. Dense vegetation can impede results, so we use the very best GPS and equipment, which is excellent at picking up a signal through undergrowth and branches. We can also deploy drones which use LiDAR to penetrate vegetation, allowing us to measure bank details or areas of land without physically accessing it.

Ensuring health and safety

Each of our hydro surveyors hold a DEFRA Rescue 2 certification. This equips them with a comprehensive understanding of the hazards associated with water-related work and proficient rescue techniques. Regardless of legal obligations, we will always deploy a minimum of two surveyors to every job, prioritising safety even in regions like Scotland where it may not be obligatory.

Regrettably, it’s not uncommon to witness solo surveys or tasks near water bodies without adequate safety measures. Here at Survey Solutions the safety of our team is an absolute priority. For instance, we proactively mitigate risks by prohibiting the use of waders, which pose dangers of tripping or submersion. Instead, each member of the water team is provided with a full-body dry-suit, which they are required to wear for all assignments, including those primarily conducted on embankments. This approach substantially reduces risk should they end up in the water.

While hydrographical surveys present their share of challenges, our experienced team navigates these obstacles with precision and professionalism. By prioritising safety, conducting thorough due diligence, and embracing innovative solutions, we ensure accurate and reliable data collection, even in the face of unpredictable conditions. We also constantly review and assess new drones, scanners and surveying methodologies to help make us more efficient and improve the amount and accuracy of the data we collect.


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