Water Observations from Space – workshop summary

Surface water occurs with varying degrees of frequency and persistence across the floodplains, wetlands, salt lakes, lakes and rivers of Australia.  Information about the dynamics of surface water is required to inform a wide range of research, policy and programs.  Landsat’s 25-metre resolution and 16-day revisit frequency (8-day frequency when two satellites are available) provide a unique insight into the spatio-temporal behaviour of surface water across the Australian continent. Geoscience Australia recently completed a comprehensive national map of surface water based on analysis of 27 years of Landsat imagery.

This link contains a detailed description of the product: http://www.ga.gov.au/wofs

This link allows you to view the product: http://www.ga.gov.au/flood-study-web/#/water-observations

The released product distils all of the individual observations into a series of summary layers that capture a. how frequently the earth’s surface was observed, b. how frequently the surface observations recorded the presence of water, and c. the confidence in the results.

On 30 October 2014 a workshop was held at the Australian National University with stakeholders from the water resource management, aquatic ecology, hydrogeological and land surface process modelling communities.  The workshop participants identified a wide range of uses for the WOfS summary products including:

  • Characterising wetland connectivity
  • Characterising water body permanence
  • Providing a contextual layer for the Atlas of Living Australia
  • Providing information to compare with hydrological models of floodplain inundation
  • Land surface process modelling
  • Assessing and refining digital elevation models


The workshop participants also highlighted that the results of the WOfS analysis could be summarised in different ways to provide a richer description of surface water dynamics.  Suggestions included:

  • Annual summaries
  • Seasonal summaries (both quarterly seasons as well as wet/dry season summaries for water bodies in northern Australia)
  • Inundation metrics
    • Number of inundation events
    • Duration of inundation events (maximum, average, standard deviation)
    • Time of the first inundation event
    • Time of the last inundation event

We would appreciate your feedback in terms of which of these products would be suit your requirements.  The survey form here is designed to capture your feedback.

Geoscience Australia is continuing to liaise with stakeholders (from list agencies here?) to discuss how the individual observation results can be analysed within the context of additional data layers to provide information about:

  • The inundation extent of specific environmental flow events
  • Improving models of floodplain inundation dynamics and carbon dynamics
  • Flood risk
  • Ground water-surface water interaction


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