Imagery for impact Protecting a precious resource for future generations

Digital Earth Australia datasets have helped raise New South Wales’ capacity for water governance by 500 per cent 

Published:28 January 2021

satellite image of lake system with emphasised blue lakes against yellow land

As a program of Geoscience Australia, Digital Earth Australia (DEA) has worked for many years with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) and the New South Wales Government to make use of our inland water data products.

DEA Water Observations and  DEA Waterbodies have helped map more than 90,000 bodies of water and on-farm water storages across New South Wales.  

The maps improve understanding of water availability, inform management practices, support water policy implementation, guide compliance, and ensure evidence-based decision-making is embedded across organisations, businesses and communities of the Murray-Darling Basin.  

Monitoring flow for more than 300,000 km 

In 2020, we supported the MDBA and the New South Wales Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) to conduct the largest, most systematic water monitoring effort in the history of the state. 

Using open source Landsat and Sentinel satellite data, as well as data from commercial service provider Planet, NRAR monitored an environmental flow of water as it travelled across an impressive 306,400 sq km of landscape, past more than 3,500 on-farm storages. 

serial view of farmhouse amid sparse bushland

NRAR’s Chief Regulatory Officer, Grant Barnes, says that as a result of its partnerships with the MDBA and Geoscience Australia, NRAR now has eyes in the sky. 

“We increased our capacity to monitor on-farm storage units by almost 500 percent, from 600 to 3,500 storage units,” he says.  

Geoscience Australia’s Branch Head of National Earth and Marine Observations, Maree Wilson, says the organisation is excited to see its digital infrastructure and satellite data being used in real-world scenarios to enable better management of Australia’s water resources. 

“Through our Digital Earth Australia applications, we’re facilitating fast, large-scale assessments of surface water across the Murray-Darling Basin in unprecedented detail,” she says. “We look forward to seeing it used by regulators and water users into the future.”