Space technologies are used in various sectors for tackling today’s economic, social and environmental challenges. Their applications include communications (mobile phones, satellite TV, internet access in remote areas), transport (navigation systems), urban and regional planning, agriculture (precision farming), natural disaster monitoring and environmental monitoring (vegetation, ozone layer, ocean currents).
Management of water resources is one such area where these technologies are increasingly used. The EU-funded SPACE-O project has utilised satellite data and detailed modelling to improve drinking water quality. A special report by pan-European media network EURACTIV summarises various aspects of this project.
In a news item on EURACTIV SPACE-O project coordinator Apostolos Tzimas says: “With the water quality forecasting services that SPACE-O delivers operationally bulk water managers can at the least mitigate the impact of an algae bloom by implementing predictive water management in the reservoir like water blending or lake water treatment.” Such blooms – overgrowths of algae – could produce dangerous toxins in fresh or marine water and hurt the environment and local economies.
The same news item states: “Citing practical examples, Tzimas said in case of harmful algae blooms in a lake, water utilities could be forced to cut the water supply.” EURACTIV quotes Tzimas as saying that such an interruption for one day in a city with a population of 100 000 “can incur more than €300,000 in costs to consumers. This amount does not include the costs in the water utilities from loss of sales and reputational costs, not to mention possible costs incurred in tourism, fisheries, aquaculture, property values, livestock and public health.” Thanks to the predictive management and process optimisation features of SPACE-O, the use of chemicals could be reduced, resulting “in a positive environmental footprint as well as less operational costs for the industry.”
The project website summarises its solutions: “SPACE-O integrates state-of-the-art Earth Observations and in-situ monitoring with advanced hydrological water quality models and ICT tools into a powerful decision support system.” It notes that this will create “real-time short- to medium-term forecasting of water flows and quality data in reservoirs used to optimise water treatment plant operations and establish a complete service line from Earth Observations to the water business sector.”
In addition to models that are relevant for ecological monitoring the SPACE-O (Space Assisted Water Quality Forecasting Platform for Optimized Decision Making in Water Supply Services) project has developed and tested other products and variables. These are based on Earth observations to generate a water information system. They include “water quality reporting (e.g. trophic status index) and hydrological modelling (e.g. snow cover)” as noted on CORDIS. Other SPACE-O tools based on the satellite imagery of the EU’s Earth observation programme Copernicus that could be beneficial for water utilities include an early warning system water treatment plant optimisation risk assessment and a citizen science platform related to the administration and analysis of local water issues.
Project partners applied SPACE-O’s new products and services at the water treatment plants and reservoirs of two utilities on the islands of Crete and Sardinia. The scientific case studies involved Sweden’s Umeälven River and Italy’s Lake Garda.