Water is essential for life on Earth, as we all know. And when a shortage occurs, as is happening now in Cape Town, South Africa, it’s a crisis. But mapping water across the planet to track changes and potentially prevent water shortages is challenging. For one, because water levels are dynamic and always changing, data collected one day can become obsolete fast; and two, piecing together imagery from areas around the globe from all available sources to get the big view of water locations has been a time-consuming process, which meant available maps were often outdated.

Until now. The GBDX team at DigitalGlobe developed a workflow that enables us to automate the creation of worldwide water surface layer maps using open source, high-resolution 10 m Sentinel-2 satellite imagery available on AWS Amazon S3, run on the GBDX platform. This workflow processes an immense volume of data into a usable vector format, and also enables the aggregation of those layers to show relative change between years.