Global water quality monitoring

Accessible and timely water quality information 

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) AquaWatch initiative is using remote sensing techniques to work towards improving the coordination, delivery and utilisation of water quality in regions where little is known about the quality of surface waters. 

The goal of this project is to provide global-scale, open access, freely available water quality information across inland and coastal waters for end users in the science community, water resource managers and the general public. They will be able to monitor and assess water quality conditions to anticipate, mitigate and even avoid future water quality challenges. 

Through the GEO-GEE Program run by Google, GEO and EO Data Science, the EO Data Science team is providing Aqua Watch with essential Google Earth Engine training, support and billing capabilities. 

Technical barriers to monitoring water quality

Good quality water is essential for human, ecosystem and economic health. However, around 80% of the world’s wastewater is currently released without adequate treatment back into rivers, lakes and oceans.

The AquaWatch team recognised that water pollution and unsafe drinking water is jeopardising the health of communities and is, on average, a bigger cause of human death annually than disasters and conflict combined. Given that many countries lack the required technical, institutional and financial capacity to develop and maintain water quality monitoring programs, the Aqua Watch team started to build an economically friendly solution.

Image credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Illustration of Landsat satellite
 

Readily available imagery  

The ability to measure water quality conditions from space is a quickly evolving field. Google Earth Engine (GEE) can supply the general framework and cloud computing platform for processing satellite imagery and other geospatial and observation data. GEE provides access to a large database of satellite imagery consisting of Landsat, Sentinel-2 and 3; and the computational power needed to analyse those images and generate the proposed water quality products, which is a first for the water quality community of practice.  

For this reason,  the Aquawatch team chose GEE to run quick and vigorous testing of the proposed methodologies for both atmospheric correction and water quality validation in different geographical regions or scales.

Freely available water quality information

For the first time, with improved satellite sensors, new algorithmic approaches and data processing capabilities, the Aquawatch team has the ability to provide information about inland and coastal water quality conditions on a global scale, in near real time. This sustainable water quality information service will fulfill information needs for a broad array of end users, from artisanal fishers to national water pollution control agencies. 

Image credits: N. Kuring/NASA Ocean Color Web
Arabian Sea near the coasts of Oman, Iran, and Pakistan

EO Data Science's role in the GEO-GEE program

EO Data Science partnered with Google Earth Engine and the Group on Earth Observations to launch the GEO-GEE Program in July 2020. Across 22 countries, 32 projects were selected for the program which offers $3 million USD towards product licenses and $1 million USD in technical support from EO Data Science to help operationalise their science as they strive to tackle the world’s biggest sustainable development challenges. So far EO Data Science has: 

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Conducted 38 Google Earth Engine training courses attended by 680 program participants

Resolved 105 support tickets with a live support desk

Organised five virtual meetups for projects across the world to exchange knowledge and network with one another

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