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Copernicus evolution: Mission exploitation concept for WATER

The main goal is to analyse current and planned EO space capacities together with innovative processing, modelling and computing techniques to reinforce the existing portfolio offered under Copernicus and to propose an integrated approach for a coherent and consistent inland water monitoring system.

A specific attention should be paid to Copernicus core services providing an economy of scale at EU level, how to avoid also duplication of effort between the six services and to support and benefit from the innovation power of the market driven the industry. Through this Copernicus evolution action, specific elements should be addressed:

  • improved quality of inland water variables with remote sensing at high and very high resolution (spatial, temporal and radiometric) considering specific pre-processing cloud screening and atmospheric correction, providing objective harmonized measured over different water (e.g. with gradients of trophic status, optical properties), water storage and flux components types with methods from regional to global applicability, building on a multi-sensor and sensor-independent approach to retrieve seamless and gap-filled products;
  • development of high level biogeochemical products, beyond basic variables for water quality and food web modelling or analysis;
  • development of mixed EO / model approach leading to enhanced key variables with hindcast and forecast features, continuity of altimetry water-levels and water storage consistent between land and ocean, integrative approach of water at atmosphere (e.g. precipitation) combined with land and ocean, water hydrological cycle and its hydrodynamics provided seamlessly along the hydrographic networks, lakes and rivers including the transition from land to ocean;
  • Development of temporal and change detection approaches based on the analysis of existing times series of satellite observations of inland waters, including water availability, water quality, water storage, water fluxes, temperature, ice conditions of rivers, lakes, basins and coastal areas, including socio-economic data of the catchment area;
  • Development of innovative methodologies for uncertainties characterisation (including in-situ data and crowd sourcing).

This should result in the assessment, for the long term, of the best mission concept for water with expected performances, combining existing, next generation and expansion missions under study plus in-situ or non-space observation capacities.

Activities should coordinate ongoing efforts, include mutual identification of research and infrastructural gaps, identify a clear delineation between a core service and a downstream application and facilitate a cooperation of further research and development to be undertaken to reach sufficiently mature capacities for an operational integration as a subsequent step.

The coherence between the space component and the service related requirements should be ensured.

For proposals under this topic:

  • Involvement of post-graduate scientists, engineers and researchers and promotion of gender balance is encouraged, for example through professional work experience or through fellowships/scholarships as applicable.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of EUR 3 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

In the frame of the space strategy and with the willingness to ensure the sustainability and the development of an enhanced capacity for the evolution of the Copernicus programme, several mission concepts are developed to support areas such as agriculture, forest, water resources, climate change, or polar challenges. In addition, the design and evolution of the current generation of Sentinels will have to be prepared to ensure the enhanced continuity of the current Copernicus services. Existing and planned space component capacities will be also potentially available in terms of contributing missions.

Data and product information related to water and hydrological / hydrodynamic processes are already developed or used in several Copernicus services: the global land service, the pan-European and local land service, the emergency service, the climate and the marine monitoring service. Their developments are performed separately and in the specific purpose of each service without considering the global understanding and better representation of the water cycle from regional to global scale.

Additionally, the user requirements process undertaken by the European Commission has also identified many requirements on data and products to water issues (in a broader sense: from water reservoirs to rain, river runoffs, ice or water in soil and groundwater) to support many policies areas: the EU Water Policy - Framework Directive (2000), the Bathing Water Directive (2006), the Flood Risk Directive (2007), but also indirect support to policies related to the Agriculture, inland transport, food security, energy and hydropower that commonly focus on a local-regional scale. The efforts made at international level for water management should also be taken into account, including the UN Water coordination mechanism and the World Bank Water Partnerships. The Sustainable Development Goal no.6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation is fully embedded into this international context.

Those requirements can only be fulfilled by addressing all issues relating to the global water cycle. The coordination and integration of the water monitoring approach should be improved inside the Copernicus land service and along all the other services. The portfolio should be reinforced with the view of monitoring with a better consistency inland waters on and beneath the Earth surface (mapping water storage and water transport processes, as well as hydrodynamic processes, water quality, hydrological cycle, connection with ocean processes, …) providing a real support to policy actors and to decision-makers.

The development, the implementation and eventually the operation of an enhanced European space capacity including possible innovative expansion missions and the enhanced continuity of Sentinels is an opportunity to better address this crosscutting issue.

It will need the involvement of various players: such as National Space Agencies, European and Member States Institutions (e.g Member States’ Water Authorities), International Organisations, the private sector, operators of in-situ measurement stations, and of leading scientific experts in the identified fields such imagery processing, aquatic optics, data fusion and data assimilation of in-situ measurement stations and networks and hydrological / hydrodynamic modelling for different water storage and flux components.

Initiating and consolidating the establishment of this community and thus reaching the critical mass required for addressing such a challenge will need to take into account:

  • The catalogue of products in the Land component of Copernicus (i.e. High resolution layers with water and wetness layers, riparian areas, water products from the global land service at EU and global scale…);
  • Current and planned activities led by the Copernicus Programme (space component and services, i.e. land, emergency, climate, marine) for future services;
  • The relevant H2020 and ESA projects.
  • Increased coverage of EU policies clearly identifying which and how the project would like to address them;
  • Based on Copernicus services and existing and future Copernicus missions, define a scenario with the use of new operational capacities and to improve the interactions with non-EO communities on the inland water domain.