SmartSat CRC, CSIRO partner on waterway monitoring

By on 22 September, 2020

The Goulburn River flowing through Gum Tree woodlands in Northern Victoria, Australia. Image: CSIRO.

One-year scoping study to test terrestrial sensor and satellite network to monitor the health of inland waterways.

The project and partnership will form part of CSIRO’s Aquawatch Australia mission, which seeks to combine terrestrial water quality monitoring via a sensor network with satellite data.

The mission aims to build a comprehensive national sensor network, combined with purpose-designed Earth observation satellites to develop an integrated water quality management system, and fill the gap in existing Earth observation coverage of Australian water bodies, which is around 60-70 percent.

The mission is one of a series of large research initiatives – aimed at solving Australia’s greatest challenges focused on outcomes that lead to positive impact, new jobs and economic growth, according to CSIRO.

The project’s scoping phase will assess existing water quality monitoring regimes across the country to analyse gaps and establish requirements for the new system, including requirements for new space technology.

The completed system will have capability to monitor other environments, activities and bioregions including terrestrial biodiversity, coral reef environments, coastal wetlands, aquaculture farms, riparian vegetation, mangroves and mine sites.

SmartSat CRC CEO Professor Andy Koronios said that the scoping phase will engage and stimulate a range of activities across industries as needs are established.

“As well as monitoring the health of our 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,”  Professor Koronios said.

“We think 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.”

Research sector and industry partners for the initial phase include the University of Queensland, UNSW Canberra, Curtin University, Frontier SI, Water Research Australia and SatDek.

The AquaWatch scoping phase will produce a framework for future development of the mission, according to Dt. Alex Held, director of CSIRO’s Centre for Earth Observation.

“Working with our project partners we will analyse the core elements required to establish an integrated space infrastructure network and create the domestic technical capability to build it. This will help inform the development of future local advanced manufacturing opportunities, water modelling and Earth observation data analysis and applications,” he said.

“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.”

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