Enabling the public sector to save money, innovate and make more effective policy decisions by using space technology and data

Case Study: Rezatec – Using Earth observation for efficient and effective peatland assessment (Phase 2)

General Information

  • Provider: Rezatec
  • Technology utilised: Earth observation (EO)
  • Thematic area: Environment
  • End user(s): Scottish Water
  • Website: www.rezatec.com

Year

  • 2017

This project is a Phase 2  follow on project from Rezatec’s Phase 1 project.

The User needed a cost-effective and time-efficient method of monitoring the condition of its large area of peatland assets within their drinking water catchments, in order to improve and protect water quality at the Water Treatment Works.  Healthy and intact peatlands act as a huge store and sink of atmospheric carbon, as well as a source of drinking water, and an important habitat for many plants and animals.  However, the quality of peatlands has been degraded over many years from drainage, landscape conversion and other anthropogenic disturbances. With rising levels of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in water running off peatlands, water utilities are under increasing pressure to deliver on a safe drinking water supply to consumers as well as the ecological, social and economic benefits of maintaing healthy peatlands. Scottish Water require methods to improve efficiency of water treatment across its c. 12,000km2 of catchments lying on organic rich soils through upstream catchment management that maximises the effectiveness of its limited resources. In order to perform effective catchment management, Scottish Water required a remote method for monitoring peatland extent and condition over such a large area, i.e. required assistance in using EO datasets and creating landscape intelligence from them.

Key Achievements:

  1. A peat extent and depth map covering c. 6,000km2, extended geographically from Phase I to cover the organic rich soils across c. 12,000km2 of Scottish Water catchments;
  2. A Combined Vegetation Indicator layer, modelled using an extended set of location data for vegetation types indicative of peatland condition, in combination with Sentinel imagery, for the Phase II catchments;
  3. A set of layers depicting anthropogenic features across c. 6,000km2, including anthropogenic linear channels, peat cuttings and upland vegetation management;
  4. A time series of Relative Soil Moisture maps, including May, August, September 2015, and Summer and Winter 2016, modelled using newly available Sentinel-1a imagery;
  5. Two key indices of ecosystem condition, i.e. Peatland Integrity and Water Quality Risk, which can be visualised, interrogated and used by Scottish Water to understand and more effectively manage their organic rich catchments; and,
  6. The development of a commercially-viable tool for peatland management, which Rezatec can market to Water Utilities companies amongst other stakeholders.

This project has provided a solution for a Devolved Administration of the Scottish Government, Scottish Water, by developing a tool for more effectively and sustainably managing the c. 18% of their water catchments found in peatland areas, spanning large geographical areas across Scotland. Specifically, Rezatec has developed an online, interactive mapping and analysis service based on processed satellite imagery in combination with ground data, which Scottish Water can use to identify areas of degraded peatland within their 450 catchments. Through understanding catchment condition and focusing resources on the restoration of areas that could impact on the quality of water entering their Water Treatment Works, Scottish Water can reduce the cost of downstream water purification and improve ecosystem condition across the Scottish countryside. 

Satellite Enabled Solution:

The Data Products, visualised and interrogated through the Peatland Management Portal, have been developed using a variety of satellite imagery, e.g. Sentinel-1 SAR and Sentinel-2 optical, in combination with ground data. The component Data Products depict different features of c. 12,000km2 of the User, Scottish Water’s organic-rich water catchments, and include:

  • Catchment Features for use in contextualising the landscape, e.g. contours and woodlands;
  • The location of anthropogenic landscape disturbances, i.e. Anthropogenic Channels, Peat Cuttings and Upland Vegetation Management;
  • Aspects of peatland soils, i.e. the distribution and depth of organic soil and Relative Soil Moisture;
  • The distribution of positive and negative floristic indicators of typical peatland hydrology, i.e. the Combined Vegetation Indicator; and,
  • Layers to aid management decisions, i.e. Water Quality Risk and Peatland Integrity Index.

The application is being used as a business planning tool by Scottish Water, and integrated into their Strategic Research Plan for Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC). The Portal and its data layers assist the User in locating landscapes with a higher risk of contributing to DOC at present and into the future. 

In addition to working with the primary User, Scottish Water, during this project members of the following organisations were consulted and provided feedback on the Portal and Data Products via a workshop held in Edinburgh: Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), RSPB, the James Hutton Institute (JHI), the IUCN UK Peatlands Programme and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) Edinburgh.  JHI, SNH, the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) and the British Bryological Society (BBS) all provided invaluable ground data to support the project. 

Costs and Benefits:

The potential cost of the peatland service is based on the area of land to be analysed, the frequency of updated information required and any third party data costs. The price includes delivery of the service via the Rezatec Portal, a secure, hosted geospatial web environment.

The service is far more efficient than more traditional methods because it enables the User to reduce the time and cost needed to monitor the condition of the often large and remote catchments from which they extract drinking water. The User can now identify areas of degraded peat within a catchment without needing to visit the area, and make preliminary decisions on where to target restoration activities. Users can therefore mitigate against potential impacts more effectively, with greater resources to invest in peatland management and restoration.

The Portal provides a tool that enables the User to reduce the time and cost needed to monitor the condition of the often large and remote catchments from which they extract drinking water. The User can now identify areas of degraded peat within a catchment without needing to visit the area, and make preliminary decisions on where to target restoration activities.

Savings Made:

As described by Scottish Water’s Dr Zoë Frogbrook, the User has and will realise the following benefits from the Portal:

 “In future we will be using this as a business planning tool. We have over 230 Water Treatment Works, with over 400 catchments supplying them with water. Using the information produced from this project we will:

  • Ensure that we can identify high risk catchments for peat degradation across Scotland;
  • Identify catchments that may not be a current concern, but could be if nothing is done to halt peat degradation;
  • Help focus ground based surveys;
  • Help identify restoration projects;
  • Form a baseline from which we can evaluate change.”

The User will be able to identify peatland areas of risk to water quality more quickly and at greatly reduced cost, and therefore mitigate against potential impacts more effectively, with greater resources to invest in peatland management and restoration.

Involvement with SSGP through this project has provided Rezatec with invaluable access to user communities, e.g. Scottish Water, and support to develop products and services of interest to Users in the sustainable management of the UK’s peatland resource, a landscape of global importance. 

Lessons Learned:

  • The processing and analysis steps required to incorporate Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellite imagery into landscape intelligence data products;
  • Considerations for modelling peat depth across a diverse landscape.

Next Steps:

  • As Scottish Water uses and tests the Peatland Management Portal, Rezatec will gather further feedback from them and revise the Data Products and Portal accordingly;
  • Market opportunities with other potential End Users are being investigated at present, with pilot projects planned;
  • The potential to collaborate and further develop the data products, e.g. peat depth map, with contacts made during Phase II is being investigated; and,
  • The roll-out to additional peatland areas within the UK and internationally is being investigated.

Click on the following links to see Rezatec's presentation and video from Phase 1 of the project.