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Mission overview

Monitoring the health of inland and coastal waters

Together with our partners we aim to co-design and build an extensive network of purpose-designed Earth 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.

AquaWatch Australia will support water managers to monitor natural events such as toxic algal blooms, the contamination of drinking water, and excess runoff from irrigation and will increase the resilience of rural and regional communities that depend on water for agriculture and improve environmental outcomes.

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

Water - Our most precious resource

The health and quality of our inland and coastal waterways are under profound threat due to increasing human activity, and stressors including urbanisation, population growth, land use changes, deforestation, competition for the resource with irrigation and farming needs, and contamination from industrial processing.

Water quality is also under pressure from the effects of climate change. As variations become more marked, the environmental impact from drought, bush fire sediment, storm events, toxic algal blooms and contamination is growing.

[Music plays and a view of the night sky appears, and then the image changes to show a spinning world globe, and the camera zooms in, and text appears: We are CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency]

[Image changes to show a facing view of the Investigator research vessel]

[Images flash through of a diver on the ocean floor, crew deploying an AUV, and researchers looking at ocean floor mapping on a computer screen]

[Images move through of a diagram on the computer screen, crew slapping hands together in celebration, and the bottom of the world globe, and text appears: We use science and technology to solve Australia’s greatest challenges…]

[Images flash through of employees in conversation in a control room, a close view of a circuit board being soldered, and a close view of a multicorer]

[Images move through of a view looking down on a monitoring site on a clifftop, a close satellite view looking down on the Earth, and a whale swimming through the ocean, and text appears: … and improve the quality of life on Earth]

[Images move through to show waves rolling in on the shore, blowholes pushing water upwards on a reef, a view of the sea, mangroves at the water’s edge, and sea crashing against a cliff base, and text appears: The AquaWatch Australia mission to safeguard the health and quality safety of our most precious resource…]

[Images move through to show a waterfall, and then a stream flowing through the mountains, and then the image changes to show a view looking down on a roiling sea, and text appears… water]

[Images move through of a male drinking water from a bottle, a female drinking water from a bottle, a person’s reflection in the water, and a female cupping water in her hands and drinking, and text appears: To ensure fresh, clean, safe water…]

[Image changes to show a close view of hands being washed at a sink, and text appears: … for sanitation and hygiene…]

[Images move through of a close view of vegetables being washed under a tap, a shellfish being opened under running water, a person watering a lettuce crop, a close view of sprinklers in a paddock, raindrops falling on a paddock, and sprinklers operating in the paddock, and text appears: To secure the quality of water for our crops…]

[Images move through to show view of cows grazing near a pond, a group of people canoeing down a river, and a person surfing, and text appears… for our farms, for our recreation…]

[Images move through to show a view of a wetlands, and the camera pans over the wetlands, and text appears: … for our environment]

[Images move through of a view of a road running along the coast, traffic flashing by the camera, a view of multilane crisscrossing highways, a construction site, and a view looking down on a dam, and text appears: Water is impacted by human activity…]

[Images move through of swirling clouds, waves crashing on the rocks, and a storm blowing in from the sea onto a township on the land, and text appears: Water is impacted by weather events…]

[Images move through of a view looking down on a township near the beach with a large bushfire in the background, the sun shining on water, lightning in the sky, a map of the world globe, and a close view of dry and cracked earth, and text appears: Water is impacted by climate change…]

[Images move through of a flooded landscape, algae in a creek, and polluted water washing out into the ocean, and text appears: … by harmful algal blooms]

[Images move through of a map of the world globe, a close view of algal blooms under a microscope, and a dead fish in green sludgy water]

[Images move through of various data and graphs in the foreground while a sea view can be seen in the background, and then the image moves to the left and SmartSat, UQ, Curtin University, UNSW Canberra, ANU, University of Adelaide, and Water Research Australia logos appear on the right, and text appears: With our partners… ]

[Image changes to show networking lines appearing over the world globe, and text appears: … we are developing a new way to…]

[Images move through to show silos and a dock on the shore, and a view looking down on wetlands, and text appears: … monitor these impact]

[Image changes to show a hand dropping liquid into a beaker from a syringe, and then the image changes to show a fish farm in the ocean, and then the image changes to show a fish swimming, and text appears: develop early warning systems…]

[Images move through of a view looking down on a reef, and text appears: … manage the health of our aquatic ecosystems…]

[Image changes to show platypus swimming in a river, and then the image changes to show a seal swimming through the water]

[Image changes to show a satellite view of the Earth, and text appears: By observing Earth from space]

[Image changes to show various views of a satellite moving over the surface of the Earth: Combining imagery from purpose-built satellites]

[Images move through of two males assembling an aquatic sensor buoy, a close view of the buoy floating in a harbour, and then a view looking down on the buoy floating in the harbour, and text appears: … with data from a dense network of aquatic sensors]

[Images move through of mangrove area on the coast, various diagrams of the Earth, the satellite orbiting the Earth, a satellite scanning the water, and people looking at data on a wall screen, and text appears: We are building the world’s first integrated continental-scale water quality monitoring system…]

[Images move through of the satellite orbiting the Earth, an aquatic sensor buoy floating in the harbour, a multicorer being deployed from a research vessel, and a spinning world globe]

[Images move through of researchers at work with a satellite dish, and then the image changes to show a satellite orbiting the Earth and scanning, and text appears: … known as AquaWatch Australia]

[Images move through of employees at work monitoring data on computer screens, and a close view of a supercomputer, and text appears: We are leveraging our expertise in Remote sensing technology, AI/Machine learning]

[Image changes to show a cube of data, and text appears: … Data cube technologies]

[Image changes to show researchers in conversation and monitoring various maps, and text appears: … Prediction modelling and forecasting…]

[Image changes to show data appearing on the screen, and text appears: … Data analytics…]

[Images move through of views looking down on a river through farmland, a dry riverbed and data appearing in the foreground, and text appears: … We are leveraging our expertise in Environmental monitoring to deliver critical data for decision makers with…]

[Images move through to show a world map, and a close view of swirling colours on the map, and text appears: … Real time updates, Forecasts…]

[Image changes to show a view looking down on floodwater spilling out into the sea, and text appears: Predictive analytics and warning for climate stressors…]

[Image changes to show a view looking down on a landslide on the coast, and then the image changes to show a person sampling water in a test tube, and then looking at it, and text appears: …Harmful or toxic water quality events]

[Images move through to show a male using a piece of equipment, a close view of a male walking towards the camera, a group of students working on soil samples, and a male crossing a creek holding a soil sample in a tube, and text appears: Working with the brightest minds across the research sector…]

[Images move through of a male looking into a microscope, a view of a factory, and a close view of equipment, and text appears: Co-designing innovative solutions…]

[Images move through of a hexapod moving over dirt, a close view of a 3D printer in operation, and a satellite map of the coast with data in the foreground, and text appears: … to leverage Australia’s research and industrial strengths]

[Images move through of a view of a rocky coastline, and a space shuttle blasting off and then moving through the air, and text appears: Together, this vision will grow capability across the Australian space industry]

[Images move through of a spinning world globe with data appearing around it, a view of a satellite dish, a view of a satellite in orbit, and the satellite in the foreground and the Earth in the background, and text appears: … drive investment in environmental monitoring and Earth observation ecosystem]

[Images move through of a view looking down on a river, people walking through a drying riverbed, and two people rowing a boat in a river, and text appears: Safeguard our regional and remote communities…]

[Images move through of a male casting a fishing net into the sea, four women carrying waterpots along the shore of a river, a close view of a male wearing a straw hat, and a terraced aquafarm type area, and text appears: … Support the UN Sustainable Development Goals…]

[Images move through of a sandy shore, a view looking down on a river, the coastline, and a view looking down on a reef, and text appears: … and Australia’s contribution to GEO AquaWatch]

[Images move through of a female presenting to students, people working at computers, and people in conversation while looking at a technical model, and text appears: We want to inspire the next generation…]

[Images move through of a female and male working on solar panels, and a close view of a female looking up, and text appears: To make the impossible possible…]

[Image changes to show the satellite orbiting the Earth, a view looking down on a mangrove swamp, and a cross-section view of a varying water levels in a river, and text appears: To help innovate, improve, grow…]

[Images move through of water washing up on rocks, water crashing on the shore, a seagrass bed, a turbulent sea, the top of a waterfall, and a close view of the top of the waterfall, and text appears: … a more valuable and resilient environment]

[Images move through of views looking down on the coast and then various bodies of water, the sun shining over water, and the sun passing behind the Earth, and the CSIRO logo and text appears: Unlocking a better future for everyone]

[Image changes to show text: SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre, Foundation partner]

[Sounds of water can be heard, and new text appears: Thank you to our partners, Founding partner – Smartsat CRC, Research Partners – University of Queensland, Curtin University, UNSW Canberra, Australian National University, The University of Adelaide, Water Research Australia, Footage CSIRO, NASA, Stock, Getty Images]

[Image changes to show the CSIRO and SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre logos]

Water is our most precious resource.

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Potential impact

Supporting better water quality management and early warning of harmful events

As well as improved management of our inland waterways to provide vital, safe drinking water, the AquaWatch Australia system will monitor the health of our coastal ecosystems including the Great Barrier Reef.

It will enhance urban, remote and regional water resource management by water agencies, agricultural producers, industrial and commercial water users and will enable decision makers across all levels of government to be to access real-time data to inform policy, planning and management.

AquaWatch Australia will provide an early warning system to improve management of harmful algae blooms and contaminants. This timely data will support communities to better manage human and animal health impacts from toxic water quality events.

It will also assist with monitoring and managing our aquatic eco-systems and reducing the economic impact on industries that rely on safe healthy marine environments, such as aquaculture, fishing, tourism and recreation.

In addition to monitoring environmental challenges, it is expected the development, design, build and roll-out of the AquaWatch Australia infrastructure will directly stimulate growth in Australia's domestic space capability, and drive expertise in remote sensing, advanced manufacturing and engineering.

Longer term, it is expected the data from the AquaWatch system will foster the development of bespoke data services and new export opportunities in the geo-spatial services sector, with the development of data analytics platforms, programs and data value-adding jobs that integrate prediction modelling, data analysis and environmental monitoring.


Project roadmap

June 2020 to June 2021 -Initial Scoping Phase

In collaboration with our foundation partner SmartSat CRC, we conducted initial rounds of user consultation with input from water quality managers, water utility operators, primary industries, aquaculture industry, extractive industries and government agencies at federal, state and local level.

We conducted market analysis to ensure a comprehensive understanding of end-user requirements from across Australia. This initial stage provided engineering options for space technologies and ground-based monitoring capabilities as part of a full mission concept of operation and design.

July 2021 to 2025 - Refining our Mission concept design

In this phase, we are focused on developing and refining the design parameters of our in-situ ground-based sensor system. We have commenced implementation of a series of pilot trials across various sites in Australia and with international pilot countries.

We continue to develop the cloud-based data analytics platform and information system, integrating data from Earth observation satellites and in-situ sensor network with predictive analytics, weather data, algal growth and hydro-dynamic modelling to provide analysis ready data to users across Australia.

Our space segment of our program encompasses designing and testing of a range of satellite technology that will inform the design and build parameters of the next generation of linked Earth observation satellites to deliver a global footprint.

From 2026 onwards

  • AquaWatch Australia data information service is made available.
  • We continue with the design, build and integration of the Earth observation program.
  • Towards 2028, we commence full-operational scale service of the AquaWatch Australia system.

Proposed focus

Key areas include:

  • Infrastructure and data services
  • Earth observation satellites
  • Network of ground-based or aquatic sensors
  • Predictive data modelling for real-time decisions


Working together for a more resilient environment

Our aim is to deliver real-time data for monitoring and managing our valuable freshwater and coastal environments.

Success depends on strong collaboration across industry, research and governments. Together we can leverage existing knowledge and capabilities and develop new solutions for a more resilient Australia.

As such, we continue to seek input from industry on end-user requirements. We welcome feedback from water quality managers, water utility operators, primary industries, aquaculture industry, extractive industries and government agencies at federal, state and local level.

Our foundation partner is the SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre and early research collaborators including the University of Queensland, UNSW Canberra, Curtin University, Australian National University, Swinburne University, Frontier SI, Water Research Australia and SatDek.

We are seeking additional partners to help us reach our goal of a safeguarding water quality across Australia.

International partners are welcome to connect on this opportunity.


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