Australia Creating World-First 'Weather Service' for Water Quality

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has launched a mission to deliver a world-first ground-to-space water quality monitoring system.

AquaWatch will provide near real-time updates and predictive forecasting – a weather service for water quality – once fully operational. It will support better water quality management and can be used to monitor water quality for drinking, sanitation, aquaculture, environmental assessment and a wide range of other applications to help meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The United Nations estimates three billion people could be at risk from unsafe water. Through AquaWatch Australia, CSIRO is working with partners internationally to help safeguard freshwater and coastal resources.

CSIRO, with foundation partner SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre, is bringing together research, government and industry with an initial co-investment of AU$83 million to design and develop AquaWatch. 

Data collected using an extensive network of Earth observation satellites and ground-based water sensors will be integrated at a central data hub where CSIRO’s capability in data analysis and artificial intelligence can provide forecasts a few days ahead.

CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall said water is one of the world’s most important and vital resources, adding: “In places where people still face the risk of unsafe water for basic needs like drinking and sanitation, a service such as AquaWatch could be a game-changer.

“The ingenuity behind AquaWatch is it integrates Earth observation with other science capabilities like in-situ sensing, ecosystem modelling, engineering, data science and artificial intelligence. 

“It is the latest example of CSIRO’s Missions Program, which are large-scale scientific and collaborative research initiatives aimed at accelerating the pace and scale at which we can solve the greatest challenges.”

CSIRO and its international partners are already working together on pilot projects in a number of jurisdictions including two in Asia.

In Sarawak, Malaysia in partnership with Swinburne University Sarawak, focusing on carbon losses from mangrove forests and in Vietnam, in partnership with Vietnam’s National Center for Water Resources and Investigation (NAWAPI) and Hanoi University of Mining and Geology (HUMG), focusing on drinking water supplies and hydroelectricity needs.

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