Concept

As technology progresses, satellites increasingly offer a reliable source of spatially distributed information on a variety of environmental variables. By using the reflective properties of the earth’s surface and atmosphere, it is possible to monitor (among others) vegetative cover, rainfall, snow cover, land surface temperature and actual evapotranspiration through time. Sensors like Landsat ETM, MODIS, PROBA-V and Sentinel offer a range of options on different spatial and temporal scales. FutureWater makes use of open-access datasets in consultancy studies, for operational decision support systems, and for feeding, calibrating and validating hydrological models.

Satellites now provide an archive of imagery that covers multiple decades. These historical records allow us to identify trends and spatial patterns in different factors associated with water resource management, such as water supply, water consumption and crop growth. Land cover changes, such as deforestation and agricultural expansion, can be mapped and quantified in assessments of ecosystem services and land degradation. By using state-of-the-art tools like the Google Earth Engine, we analyze these trends and patterns to support policy makers in identifying appropriate measures at different locations in their area of interest. In addition, FutureWater sees satellite-derived datasets as essential in maximizing the quality of output of simulation models to support decision makers, particularly in data-scarce areas.

Although satellites can only provide information on the past situation, a smart combination of remote sensing and simulation modeling provides an integrated outlook on historical, current and future water availability. Governments, basin authorities, farmers and hydropower companies are interested in anticipating on future events by taking timely and targeted measures. Feeding hydrological models with the most recent satellite images in an operational context allows the construction of short-term forecast based on the actual current conditions. A number of satellites pass over quite frequently, making their data especially useful for operational decision support systems. We collect these data as soon as they come available, process them using our models, and disseminate the resulting information to the end user of the system. Up-to-date satellite-derived images provide insight in the actual conditions related to water resources and vegetation, without having to visit the field.

FutureWater applications

In most of our projects, FutureWater makes use of satellite remote sensing for one or more of the purposes described above. Some examples are given below.

FutureWater has developed the Drought Monitoring and Impact Assessment Toolbox (DMIAT) for characterizing drought-prone areas in terms of drought hazard, vulnerability, and risk, as well as evaluating impacts of a specific drought event. The image presents the integrated Drought Hazard Index for two provinces in Cambodia and two in Thailand; the result of an extensive remote sensing-based analysis involving spatial rainfall statistics, vegetation cover statistics, and land surface temperature. More information on the project can be found here.

FutureWater uses remote sensing in assessments of ecosystem services, particularly those related to water (see the white paper on this topic led by FutureWater).  Satellite data can be integrated with simulation models to quantify ecosystem services, such as the contribution of water during the dry season. The map shows the watershed of Inle Lake in Myanmar, an area where dry season water supply is highly important to maintain lake levels, provide water for domestic and agricultural consumption, and support production of hydropower. By integrating different sources of satellite data and the InVEST ecosystem services model, FutureWater mapped the ecosystem services in the Inle Lake region to support decision making on nature conservation policies by a newly created basin management authority. More information on the project can be found here.

Combining remote sensing data with simulation models can also support Sustainable Land Management (SLM) strategies. In areas with scarcely available field data, satellites are often the only available source to provide up-to-date, spatially disaggregated data. The map on the left shows the annual average erosion rate for the Bealanana catchment in Madagascar as produced on a daily basis by the SPHY model. The high level of spatial detail of this map is made possible by the integration of satellite-derived datasets on vegetation dynamics, land cover and terrain. With a reliable simulation model, validated among others by satellite-derived evapotranspiration data, it is possible to run differen SLM scenarios and evaluate the impact on erosion and sediment yield of e.g. reforestation, agroforestry, and terracing measures. More information on the project can be found here.

Related projects

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  • Boundary Demarcation and Ecosystem Services Mapping of Inle Lake Region, Myanmar

    The assignment supports the newly established Inle Lake Management Authority (ILMA) by developing up-to-date, spatial datasets, which are to be included in the ILMA geodatabase. More specifically, the existing Inle Lake MAB boundary and zoning are confirmed and updated. Maps of land-use and different ecosystem services are produced and validated…

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    In consultation with ADB and the project engineers, a rapid climate change assessment for the proposed investment program has been carried out so that the findings of the assessment can be integrated in the project design. The climate assessment focuses on the following issues: (i) screening of natural hazards in…

  • Water Resources and Eco-hydrological Assessments of Tonle Sap and Mekong Delta Basins

    The overall project objective is to support MOWRAM to make more informed, evidence-based water resources management and irrigation investment decisions through better understanding of water resources and ecosystems of two river basin groups: the Tonle Sap and the Mekong Delta. The project concerns (i) rapid water resources assessment of the…

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    This study assessed the impacts of various investment portfolios for catchment management activities on the cost-benefits of small hydropower schemes, in two case study catchments in Kenya and Tanzania, and analyzes the return-on-investment for the hydropower developers. Catchment degradation trends, climate change impacts and socio-economic changes increasing competing water use…

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    Future climatic and hydrologic conditions have significant impacts for selecting crops varieties, planning the growing season and ensuring water supply during the irrigation period. To the present day, monthly to yearly decisions in agriculture rely on past climate observations. This practice is going to fail more frequently in the context…

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    TWIGA aims to provide actionable geo-information on weather, water, and climate in Africa through innovative combinations of new in situ sensors and satellite-based geo-data. With the foreseen new services, TWIGA expects to reach twelve million people within the four years of the project, based on sustainable business models. The TWIGA…

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