United Nations/Ghana/PSIPW - 5th International conference on the use of space technology for water resources management

Accra, Ghana, 10-13 May 2022 (with a possibility of online attendance)

Hosted by the University of Energy and Natural Resources on behalf of the Government of Ghana

Co-sponsored by the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW) 

Register online here

Read more about the side event: Participatory workshop for indigenous women on their roles and responsibilities related to water

Rationale and context

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), the Government of Ghana, and the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW) are jointly organizing a conference to promote the use of space technology in water management to the benefit of developing countries. 

The Conference will be held in Accra, Ghana, from 10- 13 May 2022, hosted by the University of Energy and Natural Resources on behalf of the Government of Ghana.

The Conference is the fifth international event focusing on applications of space technology for water in the series of conferences organised with financial assistance of the PSIPW and the Inter-Islamic Network on Space Sciences and Technology (ISNET). The initial event, on the use of space technology for water management, took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in April 2008, the second conference was organized in March 2011 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the third conference in Rabat, Morocco in April 2014 and the fourth in Islamabad, Pakistan in February-March 2018.


Water scarcity and water quality degradation interrelate in the major challenge to secure water of good-enough quality to meet human, environmental, social, and economic needs. According to UNESCO (2020), widespread water quality degradation across the world is the most serious water problem. Three in ten people lack access to safely managed drinking water services; water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of the global population and is projected to rise. Over 1.7 billion people are currently living in river basins where water use exceeds recharge. Among the challenges to water security are climate change (extreme weather such as floods and droughts among others), an increase in population, increase in water consumption due to domestic use, agriculture, and industry. Pollution also adds to water stress. Water is very closely related to the prevention of disease outbreak, but also a factor that can spread diseases further. In addition, groundwater resources, providing for 30 % of Earth's freshwater resources as well as for better protection against drought and microbiological contamination than surface waters, have been rapidly depleted in recent years; this poses a major threat to global water security, agriculture, energy production and global peace.

Conference objectives

The conference relates to a key objective of the Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028: the international community shall "energize implementation of existing programmes and projects", such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the 2015-2030 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the 2015 Paris Agreement. Furthermore, the Global Acceleration Framework for SDG 6 and the accelerators communicated therein, are taken into consideration for the planning of the conference:

  1. Expand the use of space technologies and space-based data for better water resource management;
    • What space-based data is available to report on SDG 6 targets and indicators or other SDG targets which have a water-nexus? Which space-based data sources have not been exhausted / used so far to support SDG reporting?
    • What methods and models are used, which ones can be applied to report SDG 6 indicators? What are the lessons learnt from SDG 6.6.1 which is already reported based on satellite data; and
    • What additional tools are required to deliver the data?
  2. Foster knowledge exchange between actors in the space sector and actors in the water management / water research sector as well as the establishment of partnerships;
    • Help create partnerships (SDG 17) based on identified needs and solutions. Identify priority areas where pilot projects could be proposed and possible partnerships established.
  3. Identify user needs
    • Identify needs of public entities and academia, civil society organizations, (e.g. data, capacity building, tools, policy, etc.) and match needs and solutions for sustainable water management; and
    • Identify user needs for the Space4Water Portal (potentially also assess usability with volunteers).
  4. Demonstrate possible solutions (by technology providers via demo sessions).

Finally, specific regional contribution from Sub-Sahara Africa will be encouraged.

Expected outcomes

The expected outcome of the workshop is to make observations and converge on recommendations for the Groundwater Summit which will take place later in 2022, as well as for the 2023 Midterm Review of the Water Action Decade. Round table discussions on water-related extremes, water quality and health, groundwater as well as capacity building and gaps assessment. The Office for Outer Space Affairs will report to the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space on conclusions of the conference and recommendations.

Conference themes

Space technologies such as Earth observation and the resulting data, satellite navigation and communication are increasingly important in observing the Earth's water bodies at regular intervals and in the most remote corners of this planet. Moreover, spin-off technologies such as filtering techniques used in space programmes find their application in water management. This conference will include inputs selected through a call for abstract and will aim at exchanges on the themes listed below:

1. Space-based technology and data for managing water-related extremes: Floods

Floods have become the world's deadliest type of disaster in 2019, having caused 43.5% of all deaths related to natural disasters. An increasing number of events compared to previous years is recognisable. Floods furthermore lead to the highest number of people affected compared to other disasters as they affect human activities and the economy. Technical presentations will focus on available methods, models, tools, data and case studies addressing how floods can be detected or monitored from space, as well as all other space-based solutions that contribute to better management of floods. Topics to be addressed can include, but are not limited to any space-based technology or data used in relation to the below listed:

  • Flood early warning, preparedness, mitigation, emergency response and integrated flood management
  • Climate change and a bent water cycle - in relation to floods
  • Basin-level approaches
  • National risk management for flood events
  • International Charter "Space and Major Disasters"
  • Remote sensing imagery, indices and other geospatial analysis
  • Sources for reliable population data
  • Data (availability, standards, levels, cloud filtering, analysis-ready data)
  • Flood impact (health, environment, economy, etc.)
  • Capacity building (gaps and needs, requirements for informed-decision making)

2. Space-based technology and data for managing water-related extremes: Water scarcity and drought

Water scarcity is a major global challenge. While water demand and population rapidly increase, we are faced with consequences of urbanisation, development pressures, and increased industrial demands on the resource. Water use worldwide has been rising at a rate of 1% per year since the 1980's, driven by population growth, socio-economic development and changing consumption patterns. Global demand is expected to continue growing at a similar rate until 2050, with 20-30% of this increase caused by rising demand in the industrial and domestic sectors. The United Nations SDG 6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation shows that 2 billion people worldwide live in countries experiencing high water scarcity, and four billion people experience severe water scarcity for at least one month per year. Water stress will increase, as demand for water grows, and the effects of climate change increasingly impact life on Earth at an increasing rate. Innovative scientific solutions are needed to help solving the water crisis, and space technology applications provide tools for effective water resources management. Research and further development of these innovative technologies need to be encouraged and supported worldwide.

Technical presentations in this session shall address how water scarcity is measured, monitored or managed with assistance from or based on space-based technology and data. Presentations will focus on available methods, models, tools, data and case studies to understand water scarcity, its causes and effects, as well as the identification of gaps and needs. Topics to be addressed can include, but are not limited to, any space-based technology or data used in relation to the themes below:

  • Water scarcity, drought, vegetation health and relevant proxies in space-based assessment
  • Types of droughts (e.g. meteorological, agricultural, seasonal, flash drought etc.)
  • Climate change and a bent water cycle - relation to water scarcity and drought
  • Data (availability, standards, levels, gaps, in situ)
  • Remote sensing imagery, indices and other geospatial analysis
  • Identifiers, parameters, important variables and their possible interplay
  • Methods, models (applicability, transferability, use cases),
  • Monitoring water demand and use, virtual water
  • Water scarcity or drought impact prediction
  • Spin-off technologies
  • Identifying and closing the (most pressing) gaps including those in SDG 6 reporting
  • Global versus regional approaches for solutions and transferability of assessment and models
  • Regional Focus: Water scarce regions (arid and semi-arid)
  • Capacity building (gaps and needs)

3. Space and water quality

In 2017, 71% of the global population (5.3 billion people) used a safely managed drinking-water service - that is, one located on premises, available when needed, and free from contamination. 785 million people lack even a basic drinking-water service, including 144 million people who are dependent on surface water (WHO, 2020). Furthermore, water quality is a key ingredient to maintaining biodiversity and overall, for sustainable ecosystems and habitats.

Water quality can be measured from space due to specific reflectance characteristics, based on the optical scattering and absorbing properties of their active constituents. These are directly or indirectly related to relevant water quality parameters (indicator) such as turbidity and suspended matter, phytoplankton and its main pigment chlorophyll, detritus, salinity, total phosphorus (TP), Temperature, pH and dissolved coloured organic matter. With the knowledge of their optical characteristics, it is possible to retrieve quantitative values of the concentrations for these water constituents, solely based on the reflectance of light measured by satellite sensors. Different sensors mounted on satellites and other platforms, such as airplanes, measure the reflection of electromagnetic waves by the water's surface (UNSPIDER, 2020 and Graf, 2020).

Technical presentations in this session should cover the methods, tools, variables, observable parameters and data related to water quality monitoring from space, as well as on the ground. Data on the ground is important due to the need for training and validation/verification data, to test new models of space-based water-quality assessment. Themes of the presentation can include, but are not limited to

  • Water quality indicators / parameters / variables - in situ and EO based)
  • Data (availability, standards, level, analysis ready)
  • Sensor suitability and water body characteristics (wetlands, rivers, lakes, etc.), capacity and limitations in technology and assessment
  • Local specificities and the relation to regional or global models, transferability and reuse of methods and model
  • Interdependence of water scarcity and quality, water quality levels per use (drinking water, agriculture, aquaculture, aquatic freshwater ecosystems and wetlands, etc.), water reuse
  • Space-based spin-off technologies for water safety
  • Satellite communication for IoT-based solutions
  • Space-based technology for WASH (water quality dimension water filtration, faecal sludge management, pipe leak detection, including in informal settlements)
  • Pollution (sources of, and their space-based detection)
  • Analysis of the actual correlation between chlorophyll-a and dissolved phosphorous or nitrogen
  • Novel use cases for existing satellite sensor's data or user needs in terms of sensor design
  • Coordination of in situ data collection (to train, verify and test space-based datasets)
  • Assessment of national and regional capacities, gaps and capacity building needs
  • Case studies

4. Space, water and health

Globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces. Contaminated water can transmit diseases such diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio. Contaminated drinking water is estimated to cause 485.000 diarrhoeal deaths each year. By 2025, half of the world's population will be living in water-stressed areas. In least developed countries, 22% of health care facilities have no water service, 21% no sanitation service, and 22% no waste management service (WHO, 2020). Climate change will cause an additional 250,000 deaths from infectious diseases, including water-borne diseases, in the year 2030 (WHO, 2017).

For cholera, a study from NASA has shown how using precipitation data can help assess the risk of outbreaks (NASA, 2020). But, according to Colwell (2020), what is very much needed besides space-based data is to obtain ground truth measurements, with water samples collected at the time of high risk of cholera, to correlate the presence of cholera bacteria with the agent causing outbreaks. This requires cooperation with meteorological departments of countries concerned to provide data on water, weather, and climate. Technical Presentations in this session on space-technologies contribution to the water-health nexus could cover, but are not limited to, the following themes:

  • Datasets/sensors used when analysing water-borne or water - related disease
  • Methods of assessment
  • Remote sensing imagery, indices and other geospatial analysis
  • Predicting risk of disease outbreak
  • Models to monitor cholera, zika, malaria, and other diseases that are vector transmitted
  • Tools, data and gaps in space-based information for water-related disease
  • Data standards
  • Coordinated approaches to collect ground-truth / in situ data
  • Spin-off filtering technology and observed health benefits
  • Case studies covering how space technology can support the study of water related or water-borne disease such as malaria, cholera, dengue fever, diarrhoea, typhoid, amebiasis
  • Preventing, mitigating, or reacting to health threats
  • Capacity building needs in space technologies for water-related health topics
  • Case studies

5. Space-based assessment - monitoring of groundwater resources

Groundwater accounts for 30% of Earth's freshwater resources provides for about 36% of potable water, 42% of irrigation water, and 24% of industrial water - indicating its significant value. It provides for better protection against drought and microbiological contamination than surface waters. However, a global groundwater depletion in recent years threats global water security, agriculture, energy production and global peace.

Space-based methods for monitoring groundwater, ranging from remote sensing to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) for positioning, provide a rapid and cost-effective tool for detecting, extracting, conserving, and testing the vulnerability of groundwater across space and time. Technical presentations in this session can cover, but are not limited to, the following themes:

  • Remote sensing imagery, indices and other geospatial analysis
  • Multi-spectral Enhanced Thematic Mapper (ETM) and spatial Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) data, radar technology and thermal surveys.
  • Monitoring groundwater influencing factors (indirect hydrogeological information, obtaining data on factors such as geology, geomorphology, drainage patterns, vegetation, and land use
  • Thematic maps to delineate groundwater potential zones (GWPZ) and monitor groundwater vulnerability
  • Indirectly measuring evapotranspiration
  • Microwave remote sensing to measure soil moisture, and estimate groundwater levels at shallow depths
  • Subsidence
  • Assessment methods based on GRACE and GRACE-FO mission data
  • Relevant in situ data / availability / data exchange and coordinated collection of in situ data
  • Data standards
  • Possibilities and limitations of transfer learning / using / adapting models from one area to another

Side Events

Participatory workshop for Indigenous women and their everyday lives related to water

On one day of the conference, UNOOSA organises a participatory workshop for Indigenous women or female Indigenous communities' gatekeepers and community activists as a side event, to make Indigenous women's voices heard. The aim is to collect indigenous communities' user needs in terms of water resources management and the protection of the water cycle towards the space sector. Participatory design thinking methods and rapid prototyping will be used to ease communication and knowledge exchange between indigenous women, the workshop hosts and supportive community stakeholders. Such rapid prototyping techniques have proven to be successful in eliciting implicit knowledge and manifesting in the prototype. This can aid to overcome potential language barriers. The working language of the workshop will be English.

To re-empower and support Indigenous women in their role as water stewards, as well as to learn from them and include them into the water governance dialogue UNOOSA invites them to this participatory workshop to address challenges. Read more


The Conference is being planned as a hybrid event with a maximum number of 100-150 participants in Accra. Participants include decision-makers, technical experts, researchers and educators drawn from the following groups: international, regional, national and local institutions, academic institutions, multi-lateral and bi-lateral development agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and also from private industry. Experts and professionals from both space-related entities and water resource management institutions will be invited, providing an opportunity to exchange experiences and strengthen networks and partnerships that will contribute to the increased use of space technology-based solutions for water resources management.

The Office of Outer Space Affairs strives to support gender mainstreaming in its programmes and is also committed to ensure a balanced representation from different perspectives. Applications from female applicants are particularly encouraged.

Financial support

Within the limited financial resources available, a limited number of selected participants will be offered financial support to attend the Conference. This financial support will defray the cost of travel (a round trip air-ticket - most economic fare - between the airport of international departure in their home country and Accra) and/or the room and board expenses for the duration of the Conference.
Financial support from the United Nations will only be considered for individuals selected as speaker and who are presently living in a developing country. For the list of developing countries, please refer to the annex of the "World Economic Situation and Prospects 2020" report, available here.

Participants will be selected on a competitive basis, depending on their place of origin and relevant professional or educational background. Successful applicants will be notified of the outcome within two weeks after the deadline to apply for financial support.

Dates and location

The Conference will be held in Accra, Ghana, at a selected conference venue, from 10-13 May 2022. All selected and invited participants will receive an information package with details on boarding, lodging and other local arrangements.

Language of the conference

Applicants must have a good working knowledge of English, which will be the official working language of the Conference.

Life and health insurance

Life and major health insurance is the responsibility of each selected participant or his/her nominating institution or government. The co-sponsors will not assume any responsibility for life and major health insurance, nor for any expenses related to medical treatment or accidents.

Deadline for submission of applications

Complete applications and abstracts shall be submitted to the Office for Outer Space Affairs through the online registration page. The completed applications, properly endorsed by the applicant's government/institution, should be received by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs as soon as possible, but no later than 25 February 2022 (especially if seeking funding support). The online application form can be accessed through this link.
Registration to attend the event in Accra should be submitted no later than 31 March 2022 and those selected will be informed shortly afterwards.
Registration for online participants are accepted until 30 April 2022.

Further information and contact details

For questions related to the Conference programme and participation opportunities, please contact: unoosa-events[at]un.org


Prof. Amos T. Kabo-bah
The Dean
International Relations Office
University of Energy and Natural Resources
Sunyani, Ghana
Email: amos.kabobah[at]uenr.edu.gh

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