Global Water Watch: a platform to be developed by Deltares, WWF and WRI funded by Google

Published: 13 April 2021

Societies and economies are under threat because of the unreliability of per capita water resources due to climate change, non-sustainable use and political instability. Worldwide water information is essential to address this fundamental challenge. To stimulate access to water information, the Dutch research institute Deltares has – with its partners World Resources Institute (WRI) and World Wide Fund (WWF) – received financial support from Google.org for the development of an app containing world-wide, high-resolution, near-real-time, water data.  

Water equality across society and sectors

One ambition is to establish an equal balance for water in our society and between sectors; another is to manage climate-change-induced floods and droughts. To help achieve this balance, Global Water Watch will provide public information about available freshwater resources. The platform will make extensive use of AI algorithms to convert earth observation data into relevant water information by merging those data with available local measurements.

Google.org Impact Challenge on Climate

The financial support for the development of the app was covered by the Google.org Impact Challenge on Climate, to which Deltares contributed as a successful applicant. “We’ve received an overwhelming number of applications to the Google.org Impact Challenge on Climate, and we and the expert jury were convinced by the Deltares approach. We’re excited about how Deltares is leveraging technology to tackle challenges such as climate-change-induced floods and droughts, and helping build a greener and more resilient future,” said Rowan Barnett, Head of Google.org for EMEA and APAC.

Artificial Intelligence

Deltares and partners will use AI to identify and classify existing water bodies and to generate information about water dynamics in near-real time. Water variables derived directly from satellite images without proper interpretation are inadequate for decision-makers facing questions like “How much water is stored in my reservoir?”, “Do we have enough water to irrigate crops this year?”, “How does the upstream country manage its water resources?”. The Global Water Watch platform will generate the water information needed. Gennadii Donchyts (principal investigator, Deltares): “We will use satellite data, machine learning and cloud computing to provide detailed and near-real-time water information to ensure sustainable water use and the management of extremes, transparency between riparian states, across sectors and groups in society, with greater equality as a result.”

Roles in this partnership

Deltares will focus on remote sensing and machine learning algorithms in the field of water and the subsoil. WRI’s role in the project is to work on front-end user requirements and use case development. WWF’s role is to be involved in stakeholder engagement and convening dialogue with local communities. Google.org is the philanthropic arm of Google. Their goal is to help solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges — combining funding, innovation, and technical expertise to support underserved communities and provide opportunity for everyone.

About the Google.org Impact Challenge on Climate

The Google.org Impact Challenge on Climate commits €10M to fund bold ideas that aim to use technology to accelerate Europe’s progress toward a greener, more resilient future. Selected organisations can receive up to €2M in funding and possible customised post-grant support from the Google for Startups Accelerator to help bring their ideas to life.