Earth observation data can now see huge amounts of detail. This high resolution data is really useful in certain circumstances, for instance, it is imperative when it comes to identifying pollutants and where they come from. New satellite data has the potential to help track methane and carbon dioxide emissions to individual sources, making enforcement of emissions taxes and caps much easier. At HR Wallingford we find that the increased detail on topography can help us make flood models more accurate.
However lower resolution, space agency mission data, which is free to the user, still has its place. Those data sets are usually available globally, covers large areas in one acquisition and crucially have extensive back catalogues of data allowing us to assess what happened in the past.
EO doesn’t have to be expensive to be useful, but sometimes it does help. It just depends what you are trying to find out.
As earth observation scientists working on the forefront of applying space technology to on-the-ground problems, we are learning all the time. But one thing is for sure, EO is going to help us solve water related problems in ways that could only have been dreamt of as recently as a decade ago.