EU-funded FreshMon project: Mapping the quality of Europe's inland waters

Water supplies are under threat from agriculture (e.g. fertiliser overuse), economic development (e.g. increased pressure on scarce resources) and climate change (e.g. drought). In Europe, the EU’s water framework directive sets out principles for the monitoring of inland and coastal waters with the aim of protecting and improving both their quality and ecological status.

The EU-funded FRESHMON project has now made this job easier by offering satellite mapping services to authorities responsible for monitoring lakes and rivers. With more than half a million natural lakes larger than one hectare, and countless smaller ones, EU countries cannot otherwise maintain surveillance of all their inland waters all of the time.

The project has led to the launch of online subscription services offering high-resolution maps of lakes and rivers showing several indicators of water quality and ecological health. Unlike conventional spot measurements, the maps show how quality varies in time across the area of a lake or along the course of a river.

Measured quantities include chlorophyll - an indicator of algal blooms - suspended material, dissolved organic matter, surface temperature and water depth. Observations are taken from a variety of European and US Earth-observation satellites (notably Envisat/MERIS, Landsat, Spot, MODIS Aqua and Terra), including historical data going back 30 years.

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