AquaWatch Phase 0

AquaWatch Phase 0, a 12-month scoping study exploring the use of satellite technology and a network of groundbased sensors to monitor the quality of Australia’s inland waterways, reservoirs and coastal environments, commenced in September 2020.

This project aims to identify and prioritise interest in a set of problem areas spanning current and emerging issues with water use and human interactions with water resources in Australia. It also aims to prompt consideration of how Earth observation technologies can best be utilised, today and in the future, to help address the monitoring and analysis of some of these problems. As an example, in the first part of this work we are collaborating with CSIRO through the Phase-0 AquaWatch Australia project. Ultimately, the result of the Know the Market project will advise the SmartSatCRC in this area for future planning of investments for the Australian space and spatial industries.

Natural events such as toxic algal blooms, the contamination of drinking water, and excess runoff from irrigation all present a significant influence to the health of our inland and coastal waters. Having real-time data about these events and our waterways supports water managers in monitoring and managing water quality.

Data gathered from space provides critical insights about water quality, however, currently available Earth observation satellites only provide 60-70% coverage for major Australian water bodies. And while the quality of some inland waterways is monitored directly by testing, this data isn’t routinely combined with satellite data. To fill this gap, AquaWatch aims to complement existing systems and build a comprehensive national monitoring system using an extensive network of ground-based sensors placed throughout Australia’s rivers and waterways.

These sensors would work together with purpose-designed Earth observation satellites to deliver real-time updates, predictive analytics and forecast warnings to water managers.

During the initial scoping phase, CSIRO and SmartSat are collaborating with partners from the research sector, government agencies and industry including the University of Queensland, UNSW Canberra, Curtin University, Frontier SI, Water Research Australia and SatDek.

(credit: this article first appeared in SMARTSATCRC  NEWS – Issue 12, October 2020)