• The final report from EO4SD-Water is out. Check out how the latest generation of satellites can support international
    development assistance by helping countries to better measure and manage their water resources. The report provide examples on how the EO4SD initiative has supported development projects

  • After more than 3.5 years of activity the final review meeting of the EO4SD on water resources management was held at ESRIN in Frascati on the 28th and 29th of January 2020.

  • During the first days of December 2019 the EO4SD-water organized a workshop jointly with The World Bank’s Water Global Practice.

  • In February 2019 together with Zambian Institute of Environmental Management (ZIEM) EO4SD Water had a series of bi-lateral meetings with national stakeholders in Lusaka about the value of satellite data for land and water resource management relative to Zambian national interests and user requirements.

  • From July 22nd to July 24th an EO seminar was conducted at Centre de renforcement de la résilience à l’insécurité alimentaire et nutritionnelle au Sahel (P2RS) in Niamey.


Global water resources are being rapidly exploited through unprecedented population growth and widespread unsustainable management practices. The current pace, magnitude and spatial reach of humankinds impact on water resources is now a very real concern for future development and peace. In simple terms this means that water resources are being polluted and over-exploited on scales never witnessed before. Currently, millions of people still live without access to safe drinking water, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Agricultural irrigation remains by far the largest consumer of freshwater resources, accounting for about 70% of freshwater use, with this number expected to increase by a further 20% by 2050.

In response to the widespread recognition of impending water scarcity, in January 2015, the World Economic Forum declared the water crisis as one of the highest global risks. However, despite this growing concern, a water crisis can be viewed as management crisis, that can be mitigated through the application of best-practices and sound water management policy.

Considering the significant risks of letting a potential water crisis unfold unabated, the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), approved in September 2015, set specific targets for water (SDG 6). This ambitious SDG aims to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. One of the central pathways outlined to achieve this goal is through integrated water resources management (IWRM) at multiple levels, including transboundary cooperation (cf. SDG Target 6.5). The successful implementation and monitoring of IWRM initiatives requires access to reliable data and information on key water related challenges. There is now a growing awareness that Earth Observation (EO) data has the potential to serve these data needs. This is especially relevant in the context of Official Developing Assistance (ODA), which normally target regions where policies and management decisions are more often based on sparse and unreliable information.

Since 2008 the European Space Agency (ESA) has worked closely with International Financing Institutions (IFIs) and Client States to harness the benefits of EO for global sustainable development. Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SD) is a new ESA initiative which aims at increasing the uptake of EO-based information in regular development operations at the national and international level.


Specifically, for water resource management the EO4SD will seek to demonstrate the benefits and utility of EO services in response to stakeholder requirements for water resources monitoring and management at local to basin scales.

Some of the key water related priority areas where EO-based geo-information is needed include:

  • River basin characterization and change monitoring (e.g. hydrological network mapping, long-term climate change analysis)
  • Water supply and sanitation (e.g. monitoring of water quality, extent and level of lakes and rivers to support management for agricultural, industrial and urban water use)
  • Hydrological management (e.g. modeling and forecasts of runoff, river discharge and groundwater abstraction)
  • Water productivity (e.g. mapping of biomass production, evapotranspiration and crop type)
  • Risk management of natural hydrological hazards (e.g. mapping and forecasting of flooding, drought, landslides)
  • Industrial activity assessment (e.g. monitoring of freshwater fisheries, aquaculture, hydropower and mining)


The EO4SD portfolio represent the EO-based information services which can support key priority issues for water resource management and planning.

  • Surface water monitoring

    Knowing the extent and levels of surface water bodies and wetlands is crucial for designing effective water management strategies.

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  • Water quality monitoring

    Clean fresh water is a serious environmental challenge,and Earth Observation has become an increasingly important tool to monitor water quality on a regular basis.

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  • Monitoring crop and vegetation water demand

    Information on irrigated areas and the water demands of crops helps to optimize crop production and the use of limited water resources.

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  • Hydrological modelling and monitoring

    Knowing the expected flow of river systems helps to understand the seasonal dynamics of water availability. This information can be used for planning infrastructure and irrigation or used as an operation forecasting tool to predict river discharge.

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  • Natural risk management

    Earth Observation offers innovative solutions to manage risks and reduce impacts from natural disasters such as drought, flooding and landslides.

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  • Groundwater mapping and exploitation

    Sustainable use of groundwater resources ensures that the benefits from this valuable water source are preserved for long-term development goals.

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  • Hydrological network mapping

    Changes in river courses and coastlines can cause disruption to navigation systems and can act as an indicator for areas vulnerable to erosion.

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  • Industrial activity assessment

    Earth Observation can be used for more sustainable planning of industrial development and can monitor its environmental impact over time.

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  • Vegetation and land cover characterization

    Vegetation and land cover are intrinsically coupled with the water cycle. Mapping the extent of specific land cover types and changes over time is made possible only through Earth Observation.

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  • Settlement Characterisation

    Growing urban human settlements is one of the most significant global trends with wide reaching impact on freshwater resources.

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  • Digital elevation models

    Accurate DEMs are arguably one of the most important sources of spatial information used for managing river basins.

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  • Thematic base layers

    Using thematic base layers makes communication of maps and imagery to stakeholders more effective by fostering a common understanding of location and scale.

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Where we work

The EO4SD project on water resource management will provide Earth Observation demonstrations on a large-scale in Africa (Sahel, Africa Horn and Zambezi), Asia (Myanmar and Lao PDR) and Latin America (Bolivia and Peru), and within water related operations of major IFI’s including World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and the Global Environmental Facility.

Click on the map below to enlarge.


Project Consortium

The project is implemented by a consortium of specialist service providers in the European Earth Observation sector. The consortium integrates EO technical proficiency and a wide experience in developing geospatial operation services in the field of water resources: DHI Gras (Denmark) (lead), GeoVille (Austria), Satelligence (The Netherlands), Starlab (Spain), eLEAF (The Netherlands), DHI (Denmark), adelphi (Germany), University of Twente - ITC (The Netherlands), DTU Environment (Denmark).

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World Water Day 2018


Today is the World Water Day and we would like to thank all our partners who work so tirelessly for the better management of water resources. Please be assured that the EO4SD team will keep supporting you in 2018.