Joint media release: World Water Day - Improving Australia's water quality with space monitoring

The Hon Ed Husic MP, Minister for Industry and Science
The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for the Environment and Water

Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic and Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek have announced a new CSIRO-led water research mission on World Water Day

The research mission aims to provide a ‘weather service for water quality,’ and deliver accurate, real-time water quality data monitoring and forecasting.

The AquaWatch Australia mission will see $83 million of investment from government and partnerships across research institutes and industry. 

AquaWatch aims to build an extensive network of observation satellites and ground-based sensors to monitor the quality of Australia’s rivers and coastal and inland waterways with real-time data and predictive analysis.

This program will enable government, scientists and industry to monitor in real-time natural events such as toxic algal blooms, the contamination of drinking water, and excess runoff from irrigation. 

More and faster information means action can be taken to address problems as they arise. This will ensure, for example, regional communities’ water supplies are safeguarded and kept safe for drinking and use. 

As well as monitoring the health of our inland rivers, dams and waterways, the AquaWatch system will also potentially be able to monitor coastal wetlands, aquaculture farms, riparian vegetation and terrestrial biodiversity, mine sites, mangroves and coral reef environments.

Six pilot sites have already been established with partners in Australia and another five internationally in Chile, Colombia, Malaysia, the United States and Vietnam.

Through its National Missions program, CSIRO is helping Australian businesses and communities solve difficult challenges by accelerating key projects and research collaborations.

Quote attributable to the Minister for Industry and Science, the Hon Ed Husic MP:

“Australians love our waterways – for recreation or a source of life for our cities, suburbs and regions. Knowing in real time what the water quality is like will improve the quality of life for our communities. 

“The AquaWatch mission provides a vital service to help protect our water resources.

“It will establish a system for monitoring water quality from space, using an extensive network of ground-based sensors calibrated with Earth observation satellites. Having this real-time data means that we can monitor and manage the water quality in our oceans and riverways. 

“AquaWatch will also create new jobs and build greater expertise in Australian industry across areas such as satellite technology, advanced manufacturing and engineering.”

Quote attributable to the Minister for the Environment and Water the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP:

"Today is World Water Day – and Australians know better than anyone in the world how precious our water resources are. We know that we have to protect the health of our water supplies for the future – for our communities, for use in agriculture and industry and for the environment. 

“When it comes to safeguarding the quality of our water, getting more information faster means that government and industry can respond to issues quickly when they arise.

“AquaWatch’s new satellite and sensor network means when there are issues with water supplies we can take action faster. For example, if there’s contamination in a town’s water supply we will be alerted in real-time and can take immediate action – rather than risking anyone’s health. 

“The sensors will also help to predict natural events like toxic algal blooms, the contamination of drinking water and excess runoff from irrigation. 

“The program will also assist in managing aquatic eco-systems that Australia relies on for economic activities – such as fishing and aquaculture. 

“The AquaWatch program has the added advantage of linking us with partners around the world –pilots are also running in countries like Chile, Colombia, Malaysia, the USA and Vietnam."