Students from the Berkshire College of Agriculture, learning about water testing

Students from the Berkshire College of Agriculture, learning about water testing


On Tuesday, 12th of February, the laboratory was visited by students from the Berkshire College of Agriculture (BCA), led by lecturers Loretta Bird and David Peacock and support assistants Nikki Thompsons and Rachael Teeuwen. The tour was planned by Richard Brown (Laboratory Manager), Jeanette Sheldon (Water Quality Manager), Fiona Jones (Customer Liaison & Support Analyst) and Courtney Friday (Communications Officer). Aiming to organise an interesting day for our guests, the SEW Scientific Services team has prepared a very exciting agenda. Presentations were held on topics like water quality and laboratory activities, followed by discussions regarding the potential career path for pupils with an interest in our industry.

1.25 million tests, carried out every year

In the opening section, Jeanette Sheldon described what her team does, talked about treatment works, catchment, online monitoring, distribution science, sampling and more. The Water Quality Manager spoke about the different chemical and filtration processes we use to treat ground and surface water, so that it becomes safe to drink. Hosting the second presentation, Richard Brown covered subjects like ISO 17025 and the Drinking Water Testing Specification, which assure our customers that they can rely on the work we do. Referring to a breakdown of the 1.25 million tests we do every year, the Laboratory Manager explained how these are split between Compliance, Operational and Commercial samples.

First document associating SEW to water analysis, dated January 1893

Image showing old documents and testing kit

Richard Brown concluded with a short history lesson, which places the first reference associating our company to water testing activities in January, 1893. According to a bill kept in the SEW Scientific Services records, on the 5th of November 1892, the residents of Frimley and Farnborough held a gathering at the White Hart Hotel for the purpose of considering what steps should be taken for supplying the district with water. Following this meeting, it was recommended to impound the streams of soft water continuously flowing at the time from Frimley Cuttings in the area known as Stuart Junction. The water would then be pumped up to a service reservoir on Frith Hill, which was located high enough to supply almost the entire district. The bill’s petitioners had confidence in their proposal, especially because the samples already analysed by a Professor Attfield were described as having excellent quality.

Career opportunities at South East Water

The end of the presentations was marked by Courtney Friday with a talk about career opportunities at South East Water and an introduction to the company’s online recruitment portal ( Shortly after a Q and A session, the lab tour began, giving the students the opportunity to spend time in every department, learning about the different analyses we perform. While going through each section, examples were provided of tests carried out in the Microbiology, Organic and Inorganic Chemistry labs. Considering the positive feedback received after the visit from BCA lecturer Loretta Bird, the South East Water team is confident that some students will be interested in joining the water industry at the end of their studies.

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