A new tool from the United Kingdom's Office for National Statistics (ONS) will enable countries around the world keep track of changes in surface water supply.
The tool uses processed imagery from the Global Surface Water Explorer dataset, developed by the United Nations, the European Commission Joint Research Centre and Google, transforming information into tables and maps, which can be used by governments to create clear measurements to show changes over time.
The ONS says the tool has the potential to help countries track changes in large scale water ecosystems over time, which could be caused by impacts from human interactions with the environment, such as climate change.
“The important thing about this tool is that because it uses a publicly available global data source, countries around the world, including those in the developing world who are most likely to be negatively affected by climate change, can also use it for free,” Joanne Evans, head of international collaboration for sustainable development goals at the ONS, said.
Early analysis after using the tool on UK data suggests that 50 Percent of the UK's permanent surface inland water was in Scotland, when looking at large bodies of water from 1984 to 2019.
Northern Ireland contained 31 Percent while England and Wales together contained 19 Percent. England held an average of 57 Percent and 43 Percent of all temporary and seasonal inland surface waters respectively over the same time period.
The UN requires countries around the world to report “changes in the extent of water-related ecosystems over time” as part of its sustainable development goals.
“At the ONS we have an important duty to report data on behalf of the UK for the UN’s sustainable development goals to help provide comparable measures for the country's progress on a range of environmental and sustainability issues. This tool helps us to get closer to ensuring we are giving a full picture of progress towards a more sustainable future," added Evans.