Can The UK Space Agency Help Us Understand Water Pollution?
Without water, there is no life, but the most vital resource in the world is in the unique position of simultaneously being both so abundant as to be virtually infinite and yet also exceptionally scarce and unevenly distributed.
With particularly hot summers throwing the issue of water security into sharp relief, the UK Space Agency announced on 22nd August 2023 that it planned to support and fund ten projects based around water pollution, biodiversity changes, infrastructure and other factors that can affect water scarcity.
These projects will use a mix of satellite tracking, observation equipment that records data about the Earth itself, as well as population demographic information. Many of these projects then use machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence to process this vast dataset into usable information.
Each of the ten projects will receive a grant of up to £55,000 to start developing their ideas and innovations, which once they mature and develop can help people, businesses and governments understand how water is used and how best to target resources to guarantee water security for the planet.
With that in mind, here are the ten projects, what they aim to do, and how they will affect the business water market going forward.
Based in Shrewsbury, this startup is developing their automated forecasting system for floods and droughts that works at a groundwater level.
Given that extreme weather phenomena are becoming increasingly more common and forecasting in many cases relies on the confluence of so many factors, developing accessible systems to help predict potential flood and drought risks helps to boost resilience.
The earlier a flood can be predicted, the quicker mitigation solutions can be put in place to reduce their impact as much as possible and ensure that people are not left in areas without enough water to subsist or must travel vast distances to get water.
Based in Glasgow, this project aims to help protect watercourses such as rivers, canals and reservoirs from the effects of global temperature increases through the use of automatic mapping and reporting services.
The primary intention of this insight is to explore potential climate mitigation strategies to protect vital watercourses, such as woodland schemes on the sides of rivers and what organisations can do to protect bodies of water.
This Bristol-based startup is focused on freshwater management, taking advantage of a wide range of available data sources to provide pollution and climate change impact information in a particular area.
Much like similar projects focusing on watercourses and flood/drought mitigation, this project is designed to map future potential water scarcity outbreaks, develop mitigation strategies and put them into action to protect human health and biodiversity.
The main appeal of this set of tools is being able to contain the impact and potential solutions to a set catchment area, allowing for ground-floor local changes to be proposed and implemented.
A machine learning project based in Bolton that aims to model and monitor the use of nitrous oxide in agriculture such as through the use of fertilisers and diesel-powered machinery.
Whilst nitrous oxide is primarily a concern associated with atmospheric pollution, nitrogen pollution of water sources caused by runoff and polluted rain sources can cause significant problems to biodiverse areas, and this tool helps farmers to optimise their use of nitrogen.
Climate impact assessments are becoming increasingly important for corporations as well as financial institutions to check, and this London-based company aims to simplify and lower the cost of audits that can be particularly time-consuming and expensive when undertaken manually.
It assesses the climate impact of a business and its dependencies, as well as the portfolio of a financial institution, with a particular focus on protecting nature and biodiversity, breaking this information into a set of risks, opportunities and dependencies.
Given that there is a correlation between greenhouse gas emissions and reduced water quality, monitoring emissions is essential.
To that end, this Edinburgh-based business aimed to develop its automated monitoring service to keep track of methane, the most potent of greenhouse gases.
This would allow stakeholders to monitor emissions across their areas of interest, providing alerts and warnings if there is an increase in levels beyond acceptable tolerances.
Much like Frontierra, this is aimed at investors who want to de-pollute their portfolios and gives them an opportunity to get out when there are concerns a business is polluting the air and water.
Similarly to the above, this London-based company is interested in mitigating methane emissions and uses satellite tracking tools to manage, target and reduce gas flaring and emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas in the global oil and gas supply chain.
Based in London, this company is developing FarmScore, a metric for measuring the climate impact of farmlands that can give landowners an insight into potential measures they can take.
It takes advantage of observation data, ground-truthed information and its weighted scoring metrics to provide opportunities for green financing and measurements of key indicators for environmental health.
Based in Glasgow, this service uses Earth observation tools to interpret a range of social context data to demonstrate how climate change affects communities, using metrics such as land use, traditional livelihoods and community narratives to help improve planning mitigation and resilience strategies.
Most of the projects explored above are focused on current issues, resilience and mitigation planning, but this Bristol-based company is instead focused on protecting infrastructure at the forefront of reducing climate change and by extension preserving freshwater supplies.
It is a framework of datasets and AI management tools that addresses the potential physical risks that residential energy infrastructural elements like solar panels and charging stations have when exposed to more extreme weather phenomena caused by climate change.
Its primary purpose is to explore the most likely extreme phenomena that could cause damage to energy infrastructure and create more robust designs, improve implementation planning and protect people and property from the potential effects of floods amongst other concerning weather.