Satellites safeguard Murray-Darling waters

  • MDBA project proves satellites can be effective tools for compliance
  • Satellites used to monitor river flows in the Northern Basin
  • Project a partnership with Geoscience Australia using European Space Agency technology​
  • The trial in the Northern Basin found satellite images and gauge monitors on the ground were an effective extra tool against water theft.

“We’re using advanced technology to make sure water users are doing the right thing,” Minister Littleproud said.

“Active compliance is one thing which will give Australians confidence in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

“Two weeks ago of former AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty accepted a job policing water use in the Basin’s north.

“No honest user has anything to fear from cutting edge compliance.

“We’re protecting those doing the right thing and making sure everyone is following the rules.”

The MDBA used satellite images provided at no cost by Geoscience Australia, to track flows in the Barwon and Darling River systems during a release of environmental water into northern rivers.

The pictures could detect water in irrigation channels and on-farm storages and changes to crops.

The New South Wales government barred water extractions during the event and water users were informed of the flows.

The project found no significant changes to farm dam or water storages or any sudden or unexpected changes to the flow, indicating compliance issues were unlikely.

The MDBA report into the use of satellites is available through the MDBA website.

Fast facts

  • The project used the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellites
  • 134 images were gathered from April to July giving updates every few days
  • The Murray–Darling Basin covers more than one million square kilometres, including 23 river valleys and 77,000 kilometres of rivers.


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