Enabling the public sector to save money, innovate and make more effective policy decisions by using space technology and data

Case Study: EO DIP – Water Quality Monitoring

General Information

  • Provider: RSAC, Cascade, Airbus
  • Technology utilised: Earth observation (EO) – optical and radar
  • Thematic area: Environment
  • End user(s): Environment Agency, Defra EO Centre of Excellence


  • 2016

This project was co-funded by SSGP and the Defra EO Centre of Excellence.

Monitoring the nation’s water quality is a multi-million pound responsibility of the Environment Agency (EA) involving 250,000 water samples annually from 19,000 chemical and 6,900 ecological monitoring sites. Under the Water Framework Directive (WFD), more than 80% of English rivers failed to reach good status in 2015. Earth observation (EO) -derived information can potentially help achieve savings by targeting the location of monitoring sites more efficiently and effectively.

Pilot objectives

  • To test ways of using crop, land cover and other data to support the EA in monitoring water quality at a national scale – particularly for diffuse agricultural pollution.
  • To create a visual intelligence system to support the local investigation of WFD failures.



Project outcomes

The project developed a prototype system to support the targeting of monitoring effort to a smaller number of priority sites and provided tools to help with field investigations into the causes of water body failures. Earth observation data on crops in combination with other data on catchment boundaries, EA monitoring data, WFD water bodies and risk assessments are being examined for integration into business processes. There have also emerged additional benefits in targeting agricultural advice. 

Next steps

Evaluating the prototype to inform a full pilot study to translate the approach into an operational context. This will also generate detailed information on the costs and benefits of implementation. Further efficiencies will be achieved through on-going work to share the procurement of EO products used in this and other applications.

Download the final project report