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World Water Week: ESA's role in easing water scarcity


27 Aug 2018

Root-zone soil moisture May 2016
Copyright: ESA/Cesbio

Water is crucial to life on Earth. But today, its overexploitation and pollution present challenges for the environment, economies and global living standards. These issues are addressed by the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the annual World Water Week, which runs from 26-31 August 2018 in Stockholm.

World Water Week provides an ideal opportunity for thousands of participants from academia, industry and government to exchange ideas on this year's theme of "water, ecosystems and human development". Organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute, the week-long forum promotes collaborative action to help solve the looming water crisis. The event takes place as Europe recovers from an exceptionally dry and hot summer, which caused a drought in northern countries such as Sweden and Denmark.

As a participant at the conference, the European Space Agency (ESA) is co-convening a session on the use of Big Data and Earth observation for the monitoring of SDG 6 (Clean water and sanitation). ESA recognises the urgency of the water-related Sustainable Development Goals.

Satellites are an essential tool to map and monitor bodies of water from space. Optical and radar instruments can identify changes in area, and spectrometers measure water quality by applying algorithms to the colour of water. ESA's Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission also maps soil moisture as a means of providing an early-warning system for droughts and extreme weather events.

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