United Nations/Costa Rica/PSIPW - Sixth conference on the use of space technology for water management

San José, Costa Rica, 7-10 May 2024 (with a possibility of online attendance)

Venue: Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture Headquarters, San José, Costa Rica

Register here
Abstract submissions open until 22
February 2024 COB in CET time zone.

Don't miss our back-to-back training opportunities on 11 May 2024 am.

Rationale and context

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), the Government of Costa Rica, 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 San José, Costa Rica, from 7-10 May 2024, hosted by and with the support of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) on behalf of the Government of Costa Rica.

The Conference is the sixth international event focusing on applications of space technology for water in the series of conferences organised with the financial assistance of the PSIPW.

The initial event, on 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, the fourth in Islamabad, Pakistan in February-March 2018 and the fifth in Accra, Ghana in May 2022.

Background

The conference series on the use of space technology for water management started in 2008 and is part of the UNOOSA Space for Water Project in cooperation with the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water. The purpose of the conferences is to increase the number of developing countries that have developed the capacity to use space science and technology, as well as related applications, for water management and water-related scientific research. With a scientific and technical focus, the conferences of this series involve experts from all world regions but have a focus on regional needs and challenges. Speakers consist of experts who will present how concrete technical actions have improved water management in their area of expertise, and experts who will debate in panel discussions about either technical or policy topics. Besides the main event, practical hands-on experience opportunities, like demonstration sessions or workshops, have taken place to complement the more theoretical and scientific presentations and panel discussions.

In 2024, UNOOSA, Costa Rica and the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW) will jointly organize the sixth conference on the use of space technology for water management with the support of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).

To feed growing a population while maintaining access to clean drinking water and sanitation, and ensuring the water needs of healthy ecosystems, humanity needs to change the way water is used in food production. Agriculture uses 70% of freshwater resources worldwide, and the World Bank estimates that we will also need a 70% higher output from agricultural production by 2050 to nourish an increasing population.

Conference objectives

The objectives of the conference are:

  • To raise awareness on and expand the use of space technologies and space-based data for better application in hydrology, water resource management, ecosystem preservation and within the context of the Water-Food Nexus;
  • To further the active exchange of knowledge between government authorities, technical experts and academia, the private sector and civil society via technical presentations, panel discussions and networking opportunities;
  • To demonstrate how projects using space applications have successfully informed decision-making and policy;
  • To demonstrate space-related activities, services and cooperation programmes among different user groups, in particular government officials, the diplomatic community, UN and international agencies as well as NGOs;
  • To build capacity on topics relevant to Latin America and the Caribbean; and
  • To exchange on and co-develop solutions for pressing water challenges
  • To report to the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space through the Scientific and Technical Sub-committee.

Conference themes

Technical sessions, panels and lightning talk sessions for poster presentations will focus on space technologies and data supporting the assessment, monitoring, research and reporting on topics related to hydrology, water resource management, ecosystem preservation and within the context of the Water-Food Nexus. The main conference themes read as follows:

1. Water Scarcity: Space technologies to adapt agriculture to climate variabilities

With increasingly strong effects of climate change experienced through water, the shifting of climate zones, the deterioration of soil quality and rapid population growth, pressures on agriculture are high. Agriculture is a key sector for the sustainable management of water. Attention to the critical interplay between water management and agricultural production, as it pertains to the primary consumer of freshwater resources, demands immediate consideration. Space technology assumes a pivotal role in driving the necessary reforms, enabling comprehensive monitoring of water availability and utilisation on a broad scale. This includes the capacity for precipitation forecasting, monitoring soil moisture, assessment of vegetation health, evapotranspiration and irrigation practices alongside long- long-lasting effects of on aquifers. Technical presentations in this session address how water scarcity is monitored or managed with assistance from or based on space-based technology and data, as well as the suitability of crop types for a given region's water budget. The focus lies on available data, methods, models, tools, and case studies to understand water scarcity, its causes and effects on agriculture, as well as the identification of gaps and needs. The use of space technologies to aid in identifying drought-resistant crops and optimizing irrigation practices, or to identify practices that increase agricultural productivity while conserving water as well as the use of satellite data to predict and manage outbreaks of climate-induced Pests and Diseases are considered as well.

 

2. Space technology and data for water quality monitoring and sustainable agriculture

Water quality but also our health depend to a significant extent on how water is used in agriculture and how the resulting runoff is managed. Nutrient-rich and containing contaminants from pesticides and fertilisers, such as nitrates, phosphorus and potassium, pathogens from animal life stock, as well as soil particles, agricultural runoff affects the water quality of surrounding water bodies and can e.g., lead to algae blooms or sedimentation. Globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces and water used in agriculture needs to be free of toxins and ideally as clean as possible to produce healthy food. Among the great advantages of Earth observation for water quality monitoring is the temporal and spatial resolution compared to in situ data sampling. Noteworthy to say that sampling in situ remains important for the assessment of parameters that cannot be observed from space but also to train, validate and test space-based datasets. Spin-off technology for water quality testing and filtration systems such as sampling kits allow for monitoring of certain water quality parameters on-site without the need for a laboratory Presentations submitted under this theme address any space-based technology to improve, assure or monitor water quality (ideally related to the water food nexus), including Earth observations, satellite communication or spin-off technology as well as the use of in-situ data to train, validate and verify models on large-scale observations from space. Topics include the indirect monitoring of surface water quality such as chlorophyll-a, turbidity, surface water temperature, chemical oxygen demand, and dissolved organic matter. Furthermore, the identification of sources of pollution outside of water bodies allows to trace back information on the type of pollution that is relevant. Finally, topics related to the monitoring of sustainable agriculture practices such as those applied in organic farming and their effects on enhancing water quality are considered.

 

3. Satellite communication - a facilitator for IoT-supported water applications

A data and information revolution took place under the umbrella term Internet of Things (IoT) which connects devices and all types of sensors to the internet. When combined with satellite communications this technological paradigm shift becomes tangible even in the remotest areas of our planet and can hence overcome certain challenges posed by a digital divide. This theme covers the pivotal role of satellite communication as a facilitator for Internet of Things (IoT) applications to monitor and inform sensible decisions in the field of sustainable management of water, aquatic ecosystem preservation, hydrology and the Water-Food Nexus such as in agricultural applications. Presentations covered under this theme can include but are not limited to:

  • Satellite communication transmission networks and architectures for sensor systems;
  • Systems designed for (near-) real-time monitoring and transmitting water tank levels, irrigation, soil moisture, microclimates, liquid fertilizer levels, nutrient leaching and its impact on water bodies, dam and reservoir water levels to name just a few;
  • IoT for real-time water management solutions for Precision Agriculture (e.g. optimizing irrigation, pest control, and crop health monitoring);
  • Systems for crop yield predictions
  • Satellite communication systems transmitting relevant weather or water availability information to farmers and systems to inform decision-making at a local level; and
  • In-situ data collected by the sensors can feed into larger monitoring systems that observe water resource, hydrological or soil-related variables at a larger scale.

 

4. Space technologies monitoring forests, agroforestry, watersheds and their interplay

Forests provide us with ecosystem services such as clean air and a rich habitat for diverse species maintaining biodiversity. They minimise the effects of soil erosion, act as sponges in the case of flooding, and reduce the risk of landslides by creating reinforcing soil layers. Moreover, forests increase evapotranspiration, create microclimates, provide shade for water bodies, and therefore have a cooling effect on Earth. Forests and the health of water-related ecosystems and watersheds are intrinsically linked to each other. As forests depend on sufficient water sources and are affected by changes in climate, but also human activities such as deforestation that often takes place to create farmland feeding ever-growing populations this session aims at facilitating a better understanding of the use of space technology in service of healthy forests and watersheds as well as the interlinkages of the two. Presentations under this theme consider the above-mentioned links between forests and water and include space-based applications and data to monitor deforestation, land use and land change, tree cover, vegetation health, but also soil moisture, and evaporation to name just a few. Furthermore, challenges of water body detection under tree cover can be addressed, as well as monitoring of integrated farming systems such as of combinations of trees, crops, and livestock.

 

5. Space technology and data for glacier monitoring

Glaciers are the largest reservoirs of fresh water on our planet. Their retreat at alarming rates is a key indicator of climate change. Recent research indicates that melted glacial ice amounts to 267 gigatonnes (Gt) of ice per year and make up for 21% of sea-level rise. Other effects include lake glacial outbursts and flash floods with devastating effects on local populations and ecosystems. While these are anything but positive, melted glacial water is urgently needed by countries in which quantities or quality of water are not sufficient to serve the increasing water needs of growing populations. However, with such high rates of glacier melting, the sustainable flow of rivers in future decades is at risk. Satellites provide relevant services to monitor glacier retreat and its effects. Contributions under this theme address space-based technologies and data, as well as models for monitoring and future simulation. Examples include addressing real-time monitoring of glacier retreat and meltwater, early warning systems in case of resulting flood disasters, satellite radar data to monitor changes in glacier mass and, contributions of glacier meltwater to rising sea levels. Furthermore, topics on the use of space-based technologies supporting glacier-dependent mountainous regions' needs including sustainable agriculture, water conservation, and socio-economic impacts of glacial retreat.

 

Workshop: Co-creating space-based solutions for water challenges

This hands-on workshop aims at addressing water-related challenges faced by local communities by co-creating space-based solutions. Some of the challenges have been previously identified. To allow for a co-creative setting and high interaction, participation in this workshop is limited to a small amount of people. Applicants for this workshop need to submit a water-related challenge that their community faces and is described in depth, ideally including important points highlighted on a map (can be a screenshot of Google Maps) or a solution to a water-related challenge described here. Indigenous people, Women, Young Professionals and people playing a significant role in the management of water in their community are encouraged to apply for the workshop. The workshop will be hosted on-site. Online participation is only possible if a group of only online participants can be formed.

 

Presentation formats

The formats of presentations delivered during the conference sessions include keynotes, technical presentations, lightning talks (on posters), and well as contributions to panel discussions and the interactive workshop.

 

Hands-on training opportunities

On 11 May 2024 we will host hands on trainings for a limited number of participants.

Only those who have been accepted for participation in the conference will be considered for training participation.
Please only apply if the subject is relevant for your work as we have 40 spots only. Registration for all participants will open in March 2024.

Earth Observation Information for Water Quality Monitoring

Satellite remote sensing is increasingly recognized as a tool for assessment and monitoring of inland and coastal waters. This training session reviews and discusses current software tools used to obtain water quality information from satellite imagery. The session will discuss various approaches to obtain water quality products, from cloud-based data discovery tools of existing products to freely available PC software products that allow the user to process imagery and generate their own datasets. The session will be a mix of lecture and hands-on training.

Minimum requirements /skills needed: PC/Internet skills, Microsoft Office tools, GIS preferred

Maximum capacity: 20 persons

GEOGloWS European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Streamflow Services

To enable participants to proficiently utilize the GEOGloWS ECMWF Streamflow Services for effective streamflow forecasting and water management by understanding and applying the capabilities of the ECMWF ensemble weather forecasting system and leveraging over 40 years of historical flow data. This objective is aimed at hydrologists, water resource managers, and environmental scientists who are keen on integrating advanced hydrological modeling and forecasting technology into their work. Participants will develop skills in interpreting and applying daily updated forecasts for enhanced decision-making in water resources management.

Learning objectives:

1. Understand the Basics: Learn the fundamentals of the Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS) and how it integrates with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF).

2. Explore the Services: Discover the different components of the GEOGloWS ECMWF Streamflow Services, including global hydrological predictions, historical simulations, and statistical return periods.

3. Hands-On Experience: Engage in practical sessions where you'll use real case studies to understand how to access, interpret, and apply the streamflow forecasts for decision-making in water management.

4. Advanced Techniques: Dive deeper into advanced topics such as calibration techniques, uncertainty analysis, and integrating forecasts into water management strategies.

5. Networking and Collaboration: Connect with other professionals and experts in the field, share experiences, and discuss potential collaborative projects.

Minimum requirements/skills needed: Microsoft Excel and use of online tools

Maximum capacity: 20 persons

Participants

The Conference is being planned as a hybrid event with a maximum number of 100-150 participants in San José. 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 bilateral 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 United Nations encourages all qualified applicants, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds or disabilities to apply.

As gender equality benefits all genders (i.e. women, men, and gender-diverse individuals), we encourage everyone to apply.

Financial support

Within the limited financial resources available, a limited number of selected participants will be offered financial support to attend the Conference in person. This financial support will defray the cost of travel (a round trip air ticket - the most economical fare - between the airport of international departure in their home country and San José) 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 speakers 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 2023" report, available at https://www.un.org/development/desa/dpad/publication/world-economic-situation-and-prospects-2023/

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 a few weeks after the deadline to apply for financial support.

Dates and conference venue

The Conference will be held at the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture Headquarters in San José, Costa Rica from 7-10 May 2024. All selected and invited participants will receive an information package with details on boarding, lodging and other local arrangements.

Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture Headquarters
600 m. northeast of the Ipís-Coronado intersection.
11101 San Isidro, Vázquez de Coronado, San José, Costa Rica

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.

Registrations and deadline for submission of applications

Registrations opened on 24 November 2023

Complete applications and abstracts shall be submitted to the Office for Outer Space Affairs through the online registration page as soon as possible.

Registration Deadlines
Applicants seeking funding support: 31 January 2024 COB CET time zone

Self-funded participants attending on site: 22 February 2024 and those selected will be informed shortly afterwards.
Online participants: 30 April 2024.

Further information and contact details

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

Logistics information (check for updates)

For logistical information (visa arrangements, health, security, hotels, transportation) please consult this section regularly.

Visa information for Costa Rica

Link to Google translated page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica (English)

Link to original page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica (Spanish)

List of representations of Costa Rica abroad (embassies and consular offices)

Stay tuned

We will announce further information related to this event regularly.
We currently look for training providers to co-organise online training courses and on-site practical workshops.

Copyright ©2024 UNOOSA, All Rights Reserved