Making sense of the water value chain in Australia

Published on 10 February 2020 by Marieke van Slooten

Making sense of water in Australia is something that the world was forced to do in the last month, simply by watching the news. We could all watch in horror how large parts of New South Wales were burning. A tragedy that causes a lot of suffering. Finally rain brought some relieve. However, already the next day news reports showed flooding due to massive downpours.

How to make sense?

Less visible in the news are the problems with water availability in other parts of Australia like the Murray-Darling basin, which is causing problems for agricultural production, natural ecosystems and water supply. It is not as eye catching as wild fires or flooding, so we don’t see it on the news, at least not here in Europe. But the consequences are probably as severe in the long run. Making a sensible way to manage the precious resource is the challenge.

This is the challenge that WaterSense will take on. The Copernicus programme with its freely available high quality Earth Observation data offer a great opportunity to improve existing and develop new technology for water management. Accurate and reliable information and the tools to make the right decisions are the key here. We will bring both together as well as the local data, knowledge and experience to make it work. And we can do this. From the start I was impressed by the expertise we have brought together in this consortium and how well it is balanced.

Participation of NRAR and the DOI

However, technology alone is not the solution.  It is ultimately a societal problem. Even the best information is useless unless we use it and are willing to act on it. The participation of NRAR and the DOI in WaterSense is therefore promising. It can show how new technology based on EO data can help implement policies to managing our water resources in a more sustainable way. This will become ever more important in the times to come.

The growing pressure on our ecosystems, climate change and a growing population will make it increasingly difficult to get the balance right. The balance between human consumption and the environmental needs. The balance between agricultural, industrial and urban water use and ultimately the balance between different users. Information service and management tools like those that we will implement with WaterSense will become of ever greater importance to manage our resources in such a way that we will be able to maintain our well-being while avoiding ecological collapse.

The European Commission supports the WaterSense project through H2020 and the Copernicus space programme. Although the focus is on Australia, the results will be equally important for Europe and other parts of the world that face similar problems. This project can be an example for those areas as well.

This blog is written by Steven Wonink, Managing Director at eLEAF. eLEAF is lead of the Consortium Partners of WaterSense.