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TIGER Innovators enhance North-South collaboration

Five international partnerships have recently been awarded funding
through ESA’s TIGER Innovators project to develop new ways of applying
Earth Observation data as a tool for water resource management in

ESA launched the TIGER Initiative in 2002 following the World
Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Focusing on the use
of space technology in water resource management in Africa, the primary
objective of TIGER is to help African countries overcome problems faced
in the collection, analysis and dissemination of water related
geo-information by exploiting the advantages of Earth Observation
technology. More than 200 African water basin authorities, universities
and other organisations have become involved in TIGER projects across
the continent.
Existing activities have now been bolstered by a new type of project
called TIGER Innovators. These are aimed at developing innovative,
low-cost solutions to support African water authorities in the
conservation and monitoring of scarce water resources.
Utilising the latest Earth Observation technology and Geographical
Information Systems these North-South partnerships involving
European/Canadian and African organisations are intended to tackle a
range of different water-related issues across the African continent.
The five TIGER Innovators projects have been funded by the Data User
Element (DUE) of the Earth Observation Envelope Programme of ESA
(EOEP-2 DUE) with an overall budget of 500 000 Euro.
SHARE (Soil Moisture for
Hydrometeorological Applications in the SADC Region) will provide an
effective soil moisture monitoring service for the entire Southern
African Development Community (SADC). The project team combines
expertise in soil moisture remote sensing from Vienna University of
Technology with specialists in hydro-meteorological applications from
University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa.
Despite holding only a small percentage
of the total global water budget, soil moisture plays an important role
in the global water cycle. Data obtained from ESA’s ERS-2 Scatterometer
and Envisat‘s ASAR sensors will form the basis of a new soil moisture
information system.
The ERS-2 Scatterometer uses three
antennas to illuminate the Earth‘s surface in three different
directions and derive low-resolution active microwave data. The
incidence angle of each signal bounced back to the instrument is
dependent upon the relative moisture content of the soil and the
vegetation, the vegetation type and surface roughness. An increase in
angle signifies an increase in soil moisture content, surface
roughness, and vegetation biomass. Whereas the Scatterometer provides
coarse-resolution data, ASAR can achieve a higher resolution, thereby
enhancing the overall accuracy of the data.
The improved resolution of the system
will provide the team with quick and detailed information, accurate to
within 1 km. “With this service, SHARE will address today’s most severe
obstacle in water resource management which is the lack of availability
of reliable soil moisture information on a dynamic basis at a frequency
of a week and less,” said Dr. Klaus Scipal of Vienna University of
A major benefit of the project will be
the availability of soil moisture data for use and distribution amongst
water authorities in the region.
“The long-term vision of SHARE is to
supply soil moisture information for the entire African continent, run
by African partners, posted on the web, freely accessible to all,” Dr.
Scipal said. The primary users of these products will be the South
African Weather Service and the South African Agricultural Research
This project is aimed at developing a basic
information system for monitoring the Zambezi river catchment area.
Geographic Information Management in Belgium will be working together
with the University of Zambia, the Zambian water authorities and
workers at the SADC Regional Remote Sensing Unit to alleviate water
shortage problems in this area of Zambia.
Using data from ESA’s multispectral MERIS
sensor on Envisat as well as Landsat imagery, IWAREMA (Integrated Water
Resource management for Zambia) Zambia will provide local researchers
and politicians with the necessary tools for effective water resource
management. Satellite imagery will be used to generate a variety of
maps depicting existing water resources, suitable dam locations and
land cover as well as forming the basis of information bulletins for
local policy-makers.
The local team consists of workers from
the Ministry of Energy and Water Development through the Department of
Water Affairs, the University of Zambia and specific departments of
other responsible Ministries.
Lake Water Quality in Egypt
This project is aimed at designing,
developing and implementing a system for monitoring the water quality
of Lake Manzalah in Egypt. Leading the project will be members of the
engineering company C-CORE, based in Canada, in collaboration with
Egyptian water authorities and consultants from the Finnish Environment
Institute and Canada.
An essential source of freshwater in the
region, the demand on Lake Manzalah has been strained over recent years
owing to increased competition from domestic, industrial and
agricultural users. Accurate and reliable data on the condition of the
lake will be extracted using satellite imagery to monitor key
indicators of water quality such as turbidity, algal blooms and the
presence of invasive plant species.
“Responding to urgent user requirements,
the Earth Observation-based water quality products will represent an
up-scaling in space and time of the conventional field measurements and
will capture the spatiotemporal variability of critical lake water
parameters more accurately then the current monitoring programme,”
reports Mr. Puestow, of C-CORE.
As well as determining how and where the
pollution occurred, this data will be utilised by Egyptian water
authorities in their efforts to prevent further pollution of this
valuable resource.
WADE (Water resources Assessment using SAR
in Desert and arid lands in West African Ecosystems) will map
sub-surface, man-made water structures and surface water as a means of
combating the effects of desertification. In collaboration with a
consortium of desertification experts known as AGRHYMET, workers at
Advanced Computer Systems (ACS spa) in Rome will use Synthetic Aperture
Radar (SAR) imagery to explore underground and superficial water
The advantage of using SAR technology
over other tools is that it is both relatively cheap and is capable of
covering a wide surface area.
“The availability of an advanced
technological tool for water resources detection and mapping can
represent a significant improvement for sustainable water management,”
said Gaetano Pace, Project Manager at ACS Spa.
The team will be working closely with
AGRHYMET to map buried water-related artefacts such as wells, foggaras
(a type of ancient irrigation system) and channels in a selected area.
Both the technology and the necessary skills will ultimately be
transferred to local authorities.
Potentially covering an area of hundreds
of square kilometres, this new technology will enable local workers to
pinpoint human-made water features to within 20-30 metres. This
information will help local water authorities and institutions to draw
up effective plans to conserve resources in the region and understand
seasonal natural water dynamics.
Lake Victoria
Bordering the countries of Uganda, Kenya
and Tanzania, Lake Victoria is the largest source of fresh water in
Africa. The economic value of the Lake is well established, as is the
sensitive nature of its environmental condition. For these reasons, all
three countries are committed to monitoring the threats and gaining an
accurate inventory of the contents of this vast and essential resource.
In collaboration with Nairobi’s Regional
Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development, workers at Vexcel in
The Netherlands will use data derived from Earth Observation satellites
to form an information system that monitors both the quality and quantity of water.
“Goals are to develop dedicated products
and services and to build capacity at the three institutes to ensure
that expertise is made available to implement these data structurally,”
reports Léon Schouten, Project Manager at Vexcel.
Beneficiaries of the scheme will include
the Fisheries Resources Research Institute in Uganda, Kenya Marine and
Fisheries Research Institute and the Tanzania Fisheries Research
Institute. Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization and other water
management authorities will also receive valuable information and
training through this project.
(Credits ESA)