Coastal Surveillance and Water Quality monitoring in the Baltic Sea

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  • ActivityFeasibility Study
  • Closing date16 April 2012

The objective of this IAP (ARTES element 20) Feasibility Study is to assess the feasibility of using space-based assets to deliver water quality information that has been validated in near real-time in the Baltic Sea region.

The EC Water Framework Directive requires assessment of the ecological status of European transitional and coastal waters (CEC, 2000) using a number of water quality parameters, including phytoplankton biomass, amount of dissolved carbon, frequency and intensity of blooms and water transparency.

Many of the major rivers have monitoring stations to measure pollutants, but recent evidence suggests that the most significant source of pollution (e.g. waste from industry, agriculture and municipalities) may enter the Baltic through smaller streams and catchments where no monitoring exists.

Expanding the monitoring networks could provide major advances in understanding the source of pollution in the Baltic. Integrating these monitoring stations with satellite data should provide a multiplier effect.

Expected services that could arise from the proposed activity include:

  • An early warning / information system for water quality, validated with in-situ data in real-time.
  • Monitoring the effect of coastal discharge over a wide area, not just at the discharge point as is done currently.
  • Improved monitoring of illegal (and legal) activities such as discharge of ballast tanks from oil tankers, and sand / mud plumes arising from dredging, sand and gravel extraction, dumping, and demersal trawling.
  • A near real-time, reliable algal bloom warning and information system (e.g. for fisheries, tourism).
  • A monitoring service for sea surface currents in the Baltic, assisting environment agencies in forecasting the drift of oil spills and other pollution.
  • Long term coastal monitoring to assess the impact of protection actions on the river basins. The protection actions can be new practices in agricultural fertilization or new protection zones (vegetation) between agricultural areas and vegetation zones, etc. The water quality information in coastal areas can also be used for finding areas where these kinds of actions are required.

The user community interested in such services are environmental protection agencies, coastguards and harbour authorities, fishery and fish-farming industries, municipal, local and national authorities (including the emergency services), tourist operators, and the general public (accessing information on water quality in areas of interest on the internet and / or mobile phones).

Feasibility Study

The proposed project would enable real-time in-situ sensor measurements from buoys, drifters, etc to be integrated into the overall system, as well as information collected from smart phones that the general public could provide to assist in identifying pollution “hot-spots”.

An integrated solution(s) shall be defined in the study, combining terrestrial with space-based assets and demonstrating the added value of at least two space assets, which may include;

  • Satellite Communications for distribution of information from the data processing centre to users such as cruise boats and trawlers, and also for data transmission from buoys.
  • Satellite Navigation to guide ships involved in clean-up activities, or keep away shipping (geo-fencing) from polluted or environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Earth Observation to obtain information about the quality of the water (e.g. algal blooms, chlorophyll a, suspended matter, turbidity, coloured dissolved organic matter, Secchi depth, oil spills) and surface parameters (e.g. identification and concentration of pollutants, surface water temperature, surface currents), and provide large scale monitoring of waste water outlets. Meteorological data could be of value to assimilate into models to forecast the spread of pollutants.

The study content will include as tasks: stakeholder / user consolidation, refinement of user requirements, state of the art analysis, service definition, system definition, proof of concept, viability analysis, and implementation roadmap.

For More information

Information on the call for proposals has been published on ESA’s Electronic Mail Invitation to Tendering System, EMITS (, under the reference AO 7063 (under “Open Invitations to Tender”). The applicable tender solicitation package can be downloaded by registered users under this 'Announcement of Opportunity' (AO). This specific call is open for applications until 02nd of April 2012. 'Entity Registration' is possible on the same website.