The companies created a partnership to combat wildfires by mapping, amongst others, the changing water and energy balance of the area of interest using satellite technology and advanced hydrological modelling techniques. Each partner has a background in water management, albeit with a different focus. The partners are complementing each other in the area of water management and advanced technology.

Context and motivation

There is no doubt that wildfires appear with increasing frequency and intensity, often at the loss of significant wildlife. The wildfires that occurred in Australia in 2019/2020 burnt down a total area of more than 18 million hectares in a few months and have cost the life of 3 billion animals. Next to that, a study estimated that  ~715 million tons of CO2 was released by the wildfires during the period November 2019 to January 2020. These staggering figures drove Duska Disselhoff, founder of Frontier Ventures to initiate talks with eLEAF and HydroLogic about a possible partnership to combat wildfires.

Raising awareness

Extreme heat and drought are often the root cause of the wildfires. Increasing periods of heat and drought are a result of climate change or human actions such as water extraction. Groundwater and surface water are extracted for industrial, agricultural or municipal purposes. Duska Disselhoff: “It is important to realize that in many places around the world the water balance has altered significantly in the last couple of decades, for example due to climate change or land-use change. Many organizations nowadays are only responding to fires once they have started. We want to change that. We need to raise awareness of the changing water and energy balance and anticipate wildfires.”

Early warning system

The partners decided to team up in the development of a data-driven early warning system to prevent uncontrolled wildfires and to minimize the devastating impact on forests and wildlife. The early warning system would combine satellite data from eLEAF with hydrological data from HydroLogic and would be connected with existing databases with information on landcover, vegetation maps and infrastructure such as the location of roads and villages.  The ultimate goal is to provide the client a complete picture that shows the different risk classifications for the area of interest. This way, we convert data into information, insight and a plan of action with focus on the high risk areas. This should facilitate decision making among the different stakeholders.

The next steps…

The next step is to contact different organizations that have a stake in better managing forest fires, such as safety regions, provinces, waterboards and nature organizations with the aim to start a first pilot project to proof the working principle of our system.