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

General Information

  • Provider: Rezatec
  • Technology utilised: Earth observation (EO)
  • Thematic area: Local Authorities and Devolved Administrations
  • End user(s): Scottish Water

Year

  • 2016

This project was selected through an SSGP competition run using Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), supported by Innovate UK.

This project developed an online landscape intelligence portal that depicts key components of peatland integrity across water catchments in Scotland.

Scottish Water currently operates 240 water treatment works that are supplied with water from over 450 catchments, totally around 24,000km2. Approximately 18% of these catchments can be described as peatland, with around a further 32% consisting of soils with a high organic matter content. A recent survey of 58 peatland sites in Scotland showed that almost all exhibited indications of damage from drainage ditches (97%), woodland and shrubland encroachment (74%) and active peat cutting (9%). Degradation of peat soils and land management activities can cause elevated levels of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), total organic carbon (TOC) and suspended sediments to enter the source waters. This requires expensive water treatment to achieve the required Drinking Water Standards. Scottish Water seeks to use landscape intelligence to identify peatland degradation hotspots and prioritise restoration activities. This will help reduce its operating costs and protect the quality of the source water, while simultaneously maintaining the benefits provided by healthy peatlands.

Rezatec’s online portal offers novel landscape intelligence, created from Sentinel satellite images and other data sources. Maps covering peatlands in water catchments are provided to end-users in the water utilities industry, enabling them to reduce the time and cost required to manage their often large, relatively remote and disparate areas of land from which they extract water for use by consumers.

Rezatec – Using Earth observation for efficient and effective peatland assessment

Lessons Learned

The project explored how Sentinel Earth Observation and ground-based data layers can be combined to create a landscape intelligence tool, focusing on depicting peatland integrity across water catchments.

Costs and Benefits

Savings made/expected benefits include:

  • Identifying risk areas directs Scottish Water to specific catchments for more efficient use of ground resources
  • Detection and restoration of degraded peatland will reduce the amount of organic matter entering the water, therefore reducing the cost of water treatment
  • Using Rezatec applications, Scottish Water can reduce the cost of peatland assessment and restoration.

Next Steps

Further developments in the next phase of the project include:

  • Extension of peat depth, vegetation and associated maps across Scotland, in order to map peatland integrity and water quality risk across the nation
  • Adding enhanced predictive modelling capabilities to enable more proactive peatland management
  • Different water companies being approached to assess their interest in the portal developed during the first phase of the project.