Blog

Would you like to help satellites keep an eye on Australian water quality? This hands-on activity shows you how! Through the EyeOnWater app, you can help CSIRO scientists match satellite data to photos of the water in your neighbourhood!

You will need

  • A phone connected to the internet
  • Shoes suitable for walking
  • An adult to accompany you

Safety

You will need to go outdoors for this activity. Wear closed shoes, be sun smart and ask an adult to come with you. Be very careful around the water’s edge and watch where you are stepping whilst using the app.

outdoor hazard icon

What to do

  1. Grab your phone and download the EyeOnWater app (ask your parent if you need help) from either the Google Play store or the Apple App Store.

  2. Open the app and answer the Quality quiz that appears onscreen. Ask an adult for help if you’d like. Pay attention to the recommendations and try to get a score of 7 or above. You can retry the quiz as many times as you like.

  3. Once you have completed the quiz, you can choose to Continue without login.

  4. Now it’s time to decide on a nearby water body to measure! TIP from Janet: find a larger water body, such as a big lake or big river nearby. Ask an adult to accompany you.

  5. Once you arrive, look for a good location to take a photo. You will need solid ground near the water’s edge where nothing is in the way of the water and you can’t see the bottom. To avoid glare, try to make sure that the sun is behind you.

  6. Next press the Get started button and position your phone over the water to take a photo. Don’t lean over the water, instead find a safe distance from the water’s edge and kneel on one knee in a stable position to take a photo.

  7. Once you have a clear photo, the app will prompt you to match the colour of the water to the colours displayed on the screen. Swipe through the options until you find a match. These colours are called a Forel-Ule chart.

  8. Once you have chosen a matching colour, answer the questions about your location and the clouds above.

  9. After submitting your details, your image will be queued for uploading to the database. TIP from Janet: After your first reading using the app, you will be given a prompt to allow notifications from the app. If you press yes, you will get a notification when a satellite is coming over your water body. When you take a photo at the same time as a satellite, it makes both photos more useful!

  10. Under the queued uploads button, you will be given information about what the water colour you described means.

  11. Congratulations, you’ve uploaded your first measurement! Keep going!

What’s happening?

Your water measurements are helping CSIRO scientists make sure Australia has quality water into the future. Leading this program is Janet Anstee. Janet and the team at EyeOnWater use your photos to double check the data collected by satellites. And when the photos don’t match, your boots-on-the-ground measurements help scientists adjust the measurements taken from space! This is why getting notifications about overhead satellites is so important.

Why do scientists care so much about water colour? According to Janet, water colour can help scientists understand what’s happening to the ecosystem in the water. For instance, if the water is green, there might be a dangerous algae bloom. If the water is brown and murky, it could be sediment, tiny particles of rock that are often smaller than sand. Sediment doesn’t necessarily mean that the water is bad, but it still might impact people downstream.

Janet has been working on the project since 2017. She says she’s enjoyed being involved and hopes more people are keen to measure water quality. So far, the team have used the technology with Indigenous communities in the Kimberley region of the Northern Territories. They are hoping to expand across Australia.

“We really are increasingly reliant on people getting out there, really interested people getting out there and taking measurements of the water quality,” says Janet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By submitting this form, you give CSIRO permission to publish your comments on our websites. Please make sure the comments are your own. For more information please see our terms and conditions.

Why choose the Double Helix magazine for your students?

Perfect for ages 8 – 14

Developed by experienced editors

Engaging and motivating

*84% of readers are more interested in science

Engaging students voice