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1 July 2024 News Release

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, is working with partners in California to test and enhance AquaWatch Australia, a service to deliver national water quality updates and forecasts. 

Adding to seven test sites around Australia, CSIRO is working with University of California Davis, University of California Merced and USGS Water Science Laboratory, to test AquaWatch at the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, an important water body for agriculture and natural ecosystems of the San Francisco Bay. 

CSIRO’s Dr Alex Held said testing AquaWatch in a variety of waterbodies and ecosystems helps to build and improve the system for use overseas and back home in Australia. 

“It’s a chance to share experiences and knowledge as we test the system and collaborate with global experts facing similar water quality challenges,” Dr Held said. 

“Australia and California share many of these challenges. The great relationship we have built with UC Merced and UC Davis is strengthening our mission to tackle this key global issue. 

“AquaWatch will be a world-first system which combines data from water sensors and satellites, processing the information with advanced data analytics to provide near-real-time water quality monitoring and forecasts.

“It also contributes to our international commitments to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals.” 

UC Merced’s Dr Erin Hestir said one of CSIRO’s specialised water quality sensors has been installed near where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers merge to monitor water delivered for agriculture and protect the delta’s natural ecosystems. 

“Using the sensor, we can estimate turbidity, an important water quality measurement for the critically endangered fish, the Delta smelt,” Dr Hestir said. 

“It can also be used to give insight into where contaminants of concern, such as mercury, may travel.  

“AquaWatch allows for a region-wide perspective on water quality in the Delta. Meanwhile, the water-based sensor provides a check to validate and calibrate the satellite information.”

The project contributes to a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Australian Government and the Californian State Government last year. 

Australian Consul-General in Los Angeles, Tanya Bennett, said it was fantastic to see the AquaWatch test site in Sacramento reach this significant milestone, as a key activity under the Australia-California agreement on climate action. 

“This test site highlights the importance of global collaborations and technology advancements to monitor the impacts of water quality, improve our natural environments and safeguard our future water supply,” Ms Bennett said. 

The Californian test site joins already established AquaWatch sites in Australia, Italy, Malaysia and the UK, with more global sites currently in development. 


Left to right: Dr Alex Held (CSIRO); Dr Erin Hestir (UC Merced); Secretary Wade Crowfoot (California Natural Resource Agency)
Australian and Californian scientists meet with Secretary Crowfoot by the Sacramento River.
CSIRO’s specialized water quality sensor installed in the San Joaquin River Delta.

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