Water Pilot Technology Program

The Water Pilot Technology Program is part of the NSW Water Reform Action Plan.

The program offered grants of up to $150,000 each to develop pilots or proof of concepts of innovative technologies to improve water regulation, compliance and environmental water management activities.

Innovative technologies are required to:

  • enhance NSW’s capacity to detect and predict risks of non-compliance with water legislation;
  • better target compliance activities, including surveillance and programs;
  • enhance the accuracy of hydrological models used to assess annual and long term compliance with diversion limits
  • improve the protection of environmental water through unregulated systems.

Successful projects

More than 50 applications were received from universities, other research organisations and the private sector.

The department has awarded funding to four successful projects:

University of Sydney - $150,000

The University of Sydney will test the feasibility of identifying crop types at a paddock scale from satellite data, helping to improve estimates of water use on farms.

This aims to improve long term hydrological modelling and when combined with other information will assist in identifying anomalies in extraction information.

Australian National University - $150,000

The Australian National University will develop a web-based application to view and interpret water harvesting and usage information and anomalies in water take information.

The tool will use satellite observations to estimate on-farm irrigation requirements and compare this to information on a property’s water allocation, reported water use and the operation of any on-farm water storages.

The tool aims to assist compliance officers to efficiently analyse information and target investigations by determining the likelihood that estimates of actual extraction are greater than the reported extraction. The tool may also assist in predicting where non-compliance is most likely to occur.

HydroSpatial Pty Ltd - $50,000

HydroSpatial Pty Ltd will develop a method to remotely audit water take by irrigated farms and monitor on-farm storage levels. This aims to provide a simple tool to identify potential anomalies in water take information for further investigation.

The tool will use a simple water balance model to detect significant discrepancies between a property’s estimated water requirements and water availability.

University of NSW - $149,652

The University of NSW will develop an automated machine learning algorithm and map interface using remote sensing information to detect the presence, function and size of floodplain structures to complement techniques already used to identify floodplain structures. This project aims to improve NSW’s existing floodplain structure mapping capabilities for the development of floodplain management plans and provide a rapid technique to detect changes in floodplain structures. The analysis will include estimating on-farm storage volumes and changes over time.

A ‘flow tracking tool’ will be developed to monitor flows across floodplains in near-real time and detect the effects of floodplain structures. The flow tracking tool may also assist in characterising environmental flows in remote locations and providing information in near-real time to the public.

How were applications assessed?

The assessment panel chaired by the Office of the Chief Scientist & Engineer included representatives from:

  • Department of Industry – including Water Analytics, Water Science and Water Renewal Taskforce
  • Natural Resources Access Regulator
  • Office of Environment and Heritage
  • Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

The assessment panel reviewed, scored and ranked applications against the eligibility and selection criteria defined in the application guidelines.

What next?

Projects funded under the program must be completed by 30 June 2019.

A water monitoring technology plan will be developed by end March 2019 to further guide the development of innovative solutions to support water monitoring activities.