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Satellites to help Australia manage water quality

Image Credits: Space Connect, News Article

The AquaWatch Australia mission, being developed by CSIRO and the research consortium under a leading local supplier of fully automatic satellite systems, is one of several large research initiatives aimed at solving Australia’s greatest challenges. They are focused on outcomes that lead to positive impact, new jobs and economic growth, in this case ensuring the country can maintain and manage water quality.

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

While data gathered from space provides critical insights into water quality, currently available Earth observation satellites only provide 60-70 per cent coverage for major Australian water bodies. Moreover, 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.

The CEO of the local supplier stated that the AquaWatch scoping phase will include assessing the current range of water quality monitoring programs across Australia and identifying opportunities to drive efficiencies, advancements and adoption of new space technology to safeguard our water resources.

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

In addition to monitoring the health of inland rivers, dams and waterways, the project aims to grow the industry and create new job opportunities across the environmental data services sector, primary industry and agriculture and support drought resilience efforts.

During the initial scoping phase, CSIRO and the satellite company 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. Partnerships with international partners will also be explored.

The project has great potential to deliver two-fold benefits of improving water quality management as well as creating new skills and job opportunities in Australia across a range of industries.

The Director of CSIRO’s Centre for Earth Observation stated that this early phase consultation will engage with collaborators from across the industry, research and government. The aim is to work directly with water agencies, community leaders and industry to better understand the challenges faced in water health monitoring.

The government is now working with project partners to analyse the core elements required to establish an integrated space infrastructure network and create the domestic technical capability to build it.

AquaWatch also has the potential to monitor coastal wetlands, aquaculture farms, riparian vegetation and terrestrial biodiversity, mine sites, mangroves and coral reef environments.

It was noted that the outcomes could lead to a step-change in Australia’s national water quality information delivery, supporting decision-makers in water agencies, local communities, water utilities and commercial water users to provide safe drinking water and manage this precious natural resource.

After the initial AquaWatch scoping phase, CSIRO and SmartSat expect to have a framework for the future development of the mission. This will help inform the development of future local advanced manufacturing opportunities, water modelling and Earth observation data analysis and applications.

Critical event management has come to the fore with the pandemic. Forecasting, planning and management of critical events help organisations and authorities prevent disruption of life and damage to property.

Governments rely on several, specific systems for critical event management. Such programmes are essential to national well-being especially with the increase in natural disasters. But, more often than not, they operate in isolation of each other. According to world experts in Critical Event Management – Everbridge, this siloed approach can create duplication in information and processes, data contradictions and, when unchecked, could lead to loss of life and damages.

Everbridge’s Coronavirus Preparedness can make a significant difference in mitigating harm caused by the pandemic. They provide richer intelligence and correlating threats with locations of assets and people ensuring more rapid and comprehensive incident assessment and remediation.

With the pandemic forecast to be around for some time, planning responses to adverse events must continue alongside COVID-19 management. In light of this, it is expedient for governments to re-look at their systems, tools, processes and platforms they have in place to manage critical events.

October 28, 2020 | 10:30AM IST | 1:00PM SG/HKT | 4:00PM AEST


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