CONTRIBUTOR

Digital Earth Africa recently announced major advancements in the observation and monitoring of Africa’s waterbodies. The Waterbodies Monitoring Service identifies more than 700,000 unique water bodies across Africa, incorporating over forty years of satellite observations.

Pushing the boundaries of how satellite Earth observation data can be accessed and analyzed to monitor surface water across an entire continent is the latest breakthrough from The Digital Earth Africa Waterbodies Monitoring Service. Launched earlier this month, the advancement is a world first in the observation and monitoring of Africa’s waterbodies.

Who is Digital Earth Africa?

Responsive to the needs, challenges and priorities of the African continent, Digital Earth Africa – the world’s largest operator of the Open Data Cube infrastructure – uses observations and the latest innovations in digital transformation to deliver decision-ready products.

By processing openly accessible and freely available data, Digital Earth Africa Waterbodies Monitoring Service has extended the limits of how satellite Earth observation data can be packaged, accessed and analyzed to assess and monitor surface water across all of Africa.

Why Study Waterbodies?

The study of waterbodies – limnology – includes any inland body of water not classified as an ocean or sea (oceanography). Limnology covers aspects of the biological, chemical, physical and geological characteristics of fresh and saline, natural and man-made bodies of water.

In a nutshell, limnology can be seen as the study of bodies of water such as:

  • Lakes
  • Reservoirs
  • Ponds
  • Rivers
  • Springs
  • Streams

Overall, the monitoring and studying of waterbodies can play an important role in environmental conservation, public health, economic stability, and adaptation to climate change.

Access the Observation Data via an API

Incorporating over 40 years of satellite observations, the monitoring service observes and collects data from over 700,000 unique waterbodies, including Africa’s lakes, ponds, river segments, reservoirs and wetlands, right across the continent — and updates those findings weekly, all accessed via an API.

The introduction of an API means that users can interact and obtain highly customized summaries to understand the changing trends of a particular body of water or to get the latest status updates instantly.

The service offers a detailed understanding of:

  • Surface water availability
  • Dry season access to water
  • Changes in water body sizes over time
  • Understanding of potential flood risks

Addressing User-Defined Needs

Dr Lisa-Maria Rebelo, the lead scientist at Digital Earth Africa, says that the science team discussed what the optimal waterbodies datasets might look like in terms of delivering the highest impact and addressing user-defined needs, considering both where the current gaps were in existing waterbodies datasets, and how to ensure increased interoperability for users.

The service is accessible via the Digital Earth Africa interactive maps platform and the sandbox analytical environment.

Innovative technologies such as this one can help digitally transform this area of study and provide deeper insights into our planet’s delicate ecosystem.