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Remote Sensing In Hydrology

ROLL NO: 09 AR 6017
Remote sensing in hydrology

Remote sensing in hydrology.

An adequate and continuous supply of water for drinking, agriculture, and industry is basic for all societies.
Significant deviations from normal water supplies generally bring disaster in the form drought or flood. to
avoid the problems resulting from excess and shortage of water, societies have invested enormous sums of
money and employed hydrologists and civil engineers to develop systems to control and distribute water.
With nearly three-quarters of the earth being covered with oceans. It is not a question of a global shortage of
total water, but the challenge is to overcome the uneven distribution of water in space and time on land areas
and to supply adequate quality to meet local needs. for example, about 20 per cent of the earth`s land area is
classified as arid and an additional 15 per cent is classified as semiarid. Here, water has been the limiting
factor in the development of agriculture and most industries. Yet, even these dry areas are periodically
devastated by floods. The requirement placed on technology is to supply, at an affordable cost, a dependable
supply and quality of water where and when it is needed. Systems to control water supplies have consisted of
wells, canals, levees, and dams because available information is almost always inadequate, wells have been
dug that fail to produce adequate quantities or quality of water, dams have leaked or totally failed and waste
waters have contaminated drinking water. These disappointing results could have been avoided if sufficient
hydrologic, geologic and climatelogic information for resource planning had been available. The purpose of
this paper to view general capabilities of remote sensing techniques to obtain hydrologic data and to examine
remote sensing as a possible aid in operational hydrology in the future.

Aditya A. Pungavkar. Roll No:09AR6017

MCP 1ST Year.
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Remote sensing in hydrology

The hydrological cycle

a brief overview of hydrological processes will help to set a framework ford escribing those areas where
remote sensing can assist in observing and in managing water resource system. generally speaking, the
hydrological cycle traces water through different physical processes, from liquid water through evaporation
into the atmosphere, back into the liquid (or sometimes the frozen) state as precipitation falling on land areas
may either run off into rivers and streams, or percolate into the soil, or evaporate. moisture reaching the
water table becomes ground water. as a general rule, both surface and ground water flow under the force of
gravity toward streams and lakes, and ultimately oceans. The return of water to the oceans can thought of as
completing the cycle.

Accurate measurement of precipitation is a continuing goal in meteorological research and a continuing need
in hydrology which depends greatly on these data for modeling. Ground-based radar is probably the most
accurate method of determining a real precipitation in use today. Satellite images from GOES, NOAA,

Hydrology is a science built on observations and measurements. Operational hydrology and water resources
engineering have utilized these measurements for the design and operation of water resource systems and the
forecasting of hydrologic systems. There has been a long recorded history of hydrologic data collection in
support of operational hydrology going back to ancient chinese and egyptian times. in modern industrialized

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countries, hydrologic data collection has focused on stream flow, precipitation and basic surface
meteorological data which are sufficient for the design and forecasting needs of the water resource engineers:
primarily the design of water supply and flood protection works, which requires long- term records for river
flows, and the forecasting of floods, which requires (spatially) accurate precipitation measurements. to fully
understand the data needs for operational hydrology, consider the primitive water balance equation

ds/dt = p - e - q

where (ds/dt) is is the change in soil moisture over a specified time interval, p is precipitation, e represents
evapotranspiration which is the sum of evaporation from bare soil, £#, and transpiration from vegetation, ey,
and q is runoff which is the [sum of surface, or direct storm runoff and subsurface or base flow. for water
supply and/or flood protection design where long-term reliability is critical, the dynamics of eq. are
unimportant. thus, the important measurements are time [•series of runoff and possibly precipitation, and a
climatological estimate of monthly evapotranspiration. changes in soil moisture over the long-term are
assumed zero. similarly, for flood forecasting, evaporation can be ignored, soil i moisture is only relevant to
the extent that initial abstractions (or losses) can be implemented, and river flow to the extent that
comparisons can be made between forecasts and observations

Remote sensing potentially may provide the required inputs for hydrological modeling at regional to global
scales. As a result, remote sensing initiatives have included field experiments (e.g. the first international
satellite land surface climatology field experiment, fife) that have linked ground measurements with remote
sensing algorithm development. in addition, there are now consistent, long-term remote sensing data archives
from satellites such as AVHRR (agbu, 1993), goes (young, 1995) and SSMI (hollinger et al., 1992).

by the late 1990's new and enhanced meteorological satellites and higher spectral resolution land surface
sensors being launched under NASA'S earth observing system mission, combined with faster computer
networking and data handling capabilities, will give operational hydrologists access to new types of land
surface and hydrologic data. in the second part of this chapter, we discuss the potential for utilizing these
data for hydrological modeling.

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Remote sensing in hydrology

Remote sensing in operational hydrologic modeling


Cannot be directly measured by remote sensing techniques. how-ever, there are two general areas where
remote sensing can be used in hydrologic and runoff modeling: (1) determining watershed geometry,
drainage network, and other map-type information for distributed hydrologic models and for empirical flood
peak, annual runoff or low flow equations; and (2) providing input data such as snow cover, soil moisture or
delineated land use classes that are used to define runoff coefficients.

Watershed geometry.

Remote sensing data can be used to obtain almost any information that is typically obtained from maps or
aerial photography. in many regions of the world, remotely-sensed data, and particularly LANDSAT tm or
spot data, are the only source of good cartographic information. drainage basin areas and stream networks are
easily obtained from good imagery, even in remote regions. there have also been a number of studies to
extract quantitative geomorphic information from LANDSAT imagery (haraltck, et al., 1985).

Topography is a basic need for any hydrologic analysis and modeling. Remote sensing can provide
quantitative topographic information of suitable spatial resolution to be extremely valuable for model inputs.
for example, stereo spot imagery can be used to develop a dem with 10 m horizontal resolution and vertical
resolution approaching 5m in ideal cases (case, 1989). a new technology using interferometric synthetic
aperture radar (SAR) has been used to demonstrate similar horizontal resolutions with approximately 2m
vertical resolution (zebker et al., 1992).

Empirical relationships.

Empirical flood formulae are useful for making estimates of peak flow when there is a lack of historical
streamflow data. generally these equations are restricted in application to the size range of the basin and the
climatic tiydrologic region of the world in which they were developed.

most of the empirical flood formulae relate peak discharge to the drainage area of the basin; see for example
united nations flood control series no. 7 (united nations, 1955). LANDSAT data are used to improve
empirical regression equations of various runoff characteristics. for example, allord and scarpace (1979) have

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Remote sensing in hydrology

shown how the addition of LANDSAT-derived land cover data can improve regression equations based on
topographic maps alone.

Runoff models

One of the first applications of remote sensing data in hydrologic models used landsat data to determine both
urban and rural land use for estimating runoff coefficients (jackson et al., 1976). Land use is an important
characteristic of the runoff process that affects infiltration, erosion, and evapotranspiration. Distributed
models, in particular, need specific data on land use and its location within the basin. most of the work on
adapting remote sensing to hydrologic modeling has involved the soil conservation service (SCS) runoff
curve number model (U.S. department of agriculture, 1972) for which remote sensing data are used as a
substitute for land cover maps obtained by conventional means (jackson a.u.1977, bondelid et al., 1982).

Integration with GIS

The pixel format of digital remote sensing data makes it ideal for merging with geographical information
systems (GIS). Remote sensing incorporated into the system in a variety of ways: as a measure of land use,
impervious surface for providing initial conditions of flood forecasting, monitoring of flood areas, rainfall
distribution or soil moisture. This approach was demonstrated by kouwen

Soil moisture

Here continues to be speculation about the potential value for soil moisture data as in input variable in
hydrologic models, either to establish the initial conditions for simulating storm runoff, or as a descriptor of
hydrologic processes and much progress is beginning to appear as some of the aircraft experimental data
become available.

Soil water storage capacity.

All hydrological catchment models, rainfall-runoff models as well as water balance models contain a
component dealing with the soil water storage process. As long as there are difficulties to measure soil water
storage by remote sensing directly a substitute is often used, which uses remote sensing information coupled
with other information for the determination of the soil water storage capacity. If this is known, the soil water
storage process in time and space can be simulated.

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Modeling example: the red river Arkansas basin: we illustrate the remote sensing approach outlined
above over the red river Arkansas basin. the Arkansas and red rivers head on the eastern slope of the rocky
mountains and flow to the Mississippi river near little rock, and Shreveport, la, respectively. The modified
variable infiltration capacity model (vic-3l) (Liang et al. 1994, 1996a,b), was used to estimate the water and
energy fluxes for the month of June 1987.

a summary of the June, 1987 basin average energy balance result for the hydrologic model runs is presented
in table the increased incoming radiation or the remotely-sensed forcing causes generally higher surface
energy fluxes. The vast majority of this increased net incoming energy is partitioned to the sensible beat flux.
color plates b, c and table show the spatial variations in the components of the energy balance over the
basin* part (a) shows the energy fluxes using the ground based forcing data; part (b) shows the fluxes using
the remotely-sensed forcing data and (c) shows the normalized percent difference between part (a) and part
(b). on the basis of this information computation of evapotranspiration becomes feasible.
Modeled basin average energy fluxes in w/nr for June 1987 using ground based meteorological forcing and
remotely-sensed forcing
net radiation latent heat sensible heat

ground based forcings remotely- 190 106 81 125

sensed forcings
242 112

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Remote sensing in hydrology


b) c)

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Remote sensing in hydrology

Water management

Water management deals with the control, distribution and allocation of water flows and the treatment of
rivers and catchments, consequently, solutions too many of the problems in water management require the
use of knowledge and expertise from diverse sources. Some parts of these problems might best be solved
using traditional approaches like hydrologic measurement, monitoring or simulation modeling. Other
components may require information from one or more data bases from different domains such as
population, law, politics, economic statistics and biophysical resources. Many problems in water resources
management are however solved by qualitative reasoning and experience.

a common aspect in the many facets of water management studies is the location of the problem, the position
within the catchment and the spatial interrelationships between physical catchment characteristics, land use,
settlements and infrastructure. Aerial photography and satellite imagery contain spatial information of the
surface and near surface features of the earth to be captured and analyzed. Various imaging satellite sensors
are nowadays available. Remotely sensed image analysis, when applied to hydrology is best embedded in a
geographic and hydrologic information system (HGIS). a HGIS which can be thought of as a system
coupling the following elements: data bases, i.e. thematic, spectral images and hydrologic time series data, a
spatial analysis module with eventually a link to hydrologic simulation models or a rule base, which may
contain heuristics or methods tor multi objective decision making (meyerink et al., 1993).

Potential of remote sensing in water management

Remote sensing can be used in various activity domains of the water manager, i.e.

• Surveying and mapping

• Spatial analysis and prediction or forecasting and decision making in real-time. e.g. flood control,

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• Surveying and mapping

Is basic to effective water management topographic maps have long been made by photogrammetry using
stereo models of aerial photographs. Basic principles of photogrammetry can be found in lillesand and
kieffer (1994). Topographic base maps are usually available, but map updating is often required nowadays.
new technological developments make it possible to carry out map updating more efficiently than used to be
the case. geometric correction programmes for satellite imagery are a standard procedure in rs packages.
Hence updating of terrain features which are liable to change, such as land cover, river courses, reservoirs,
irrigation areas and so on, can be merged with the topographic base. in addition, some RS/GIS packages
offer the possibility of preparing digital orthophotos of both satellite images and digitally scanned aerial
photographs. this is of particular importance in land and water management, because for large parts of the
world, a land use and tenure or cadastral data base does not exist, or is difficult to access. By image
processing, e.g., edge enhancement filters and multi spectral classifications, at least parceled areas can be
differentiated. The products derived have to be metrically as accurate as possible with corrected height

Spatial analysis and regionalization

Remote sensing also makes it possible to prepare a quantitative analysis of water balance components at a
wider range of scales ranging from poor water distribution problems in irrigational areas to delineations of
main hydrological terrain units which may be termed as hydrotopes. Conceptually these hydrological units
are typical sets of hydrological responses. an essential characteristic of hydrological terrain units is that their
boundaries cam to many cases be deduced from remotely sensed imagery, using a pragmatic, open-ended
classification scheme. Knowledge of the effects of terrain factors on the hydrology should assist in
formulation of criteria for their delineation. without analytical image interpretation, the hydrological terrain
units can, to a certain extent, be compiled in a GIS environment by combining a digital geologic map,
topographic derivatives (e.g., slopes), hydrological features (e.g., drainage, lakes, wetlands) and a vegetation
cover classification.

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Monitoring and forecasting

The prognosis and monitoring of hydrologic phenomena by remote sensing dually rely on the use of image
time series or multi temporal images from a same area. The idea is to find an empirical correlation between
features measured on imagery & ground hydrometric data. if the two are correlated, the relationship can be
used reduce hydrometric ground operations, usually difficult or expensive, or to fill in the record. Obvious
applications are evaporation estimations from season variable swamp areas, or prediction of snowmelt runoff
from snow cover.

River basins planning with the aid of remote sensing

Development in most countries and regions of the world stands in direct relative to their relation and mastery
of management of water resources. Rational water management should be based upon thorough
understanding; of water availability and movement. the river basin being the physical hydrologic unit, to
which die basic principle of conservation of mass and energy apply is a common and widely adopted concept
m hydrology for assessing water and energy balance components. the water balance is a basic tool for
analyzing the availability of water resources at national, regional or local scale, GIS has proven an excellent
tool to support large scale resource and demands allowing easy aggregation overlaying and querying
between resources and demands (keser & bogardu 1993), since spatial data is needed the mapping potential
of remotely sensed imagery contributes to identification and assessment of component of die water balance
over large areas, furthermore, features can be studied of areas which will benefit from allocated water.
Besides water balance studies, remote sensing has another potential for water management in large river
basins. Full scenes of high resolution imagery of e.g., LANDSAT I or spot can provide synoptic over views
of basics and permit visual or digital interpretation and identification of landscape units, geologic features,
land cover complexes* drainage patterns and geomorphology of floodplains all essential information layers
for solving water management problems.

Hydrologic monitoring & forecasting

a widely known application illustrating the use of weather satellite system for prediction and forecasting of
rainfall and flood hydrology of large international river basins is the river nile monitoring, forecasting and
simulation project this project makes use of the low spatial resolution but high tempore) resolution imagery
weather satellites (MCTCOSAT* NOAA) which are merged with ground data in order to produce spatial

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rainfall estimates. These predictions are then used as in water balance and real-time flood routing and
forecasting model of the nile river .

Upstream-downstream interrelationships in river basins

For river basin planning and management, basic knowledge on the upstream-downstream interrelationships is
required hydrologic responses between headwater central basin area and the floodplain delta or estuaries are
unique in every basin and their knowledge is essential for downstream long-term water use, distribution and
planning. transport and delivery of sediment from catchments are important for both (jownstream and within-
basin considerations. relationships between the magnitude 0f sediment yield of basins and climatic,
physiographic and land use controls have been investigated by many researchers (hadley et al., 1985).
knowledge of the distribution of sediment sources and sinks within a basin is essential for recommending
control measures. in general, upstream areas and watersheds may be subject to important man-induced land
use changes or conversions (e.g., deforestation), which might affect downstream hydrology. occurrence of
natural phenomena such as fast geologic erosion processes (i.e., mass wasting), volcanic or seismic activities
can also influence the hydrologic behavior of river basins to a certain extent.

An example from sulawesi (verstappen, 1977), illustrates the use of remote sensing, i.e., stereo aerial
photography, for detecting changes in a river regime of a tropical catchment. The deforestation in the
catchment of the river, shown in fig. has led to an important change in the river morphology which changed
from a meandering river (note the remnants on the floodplain) to a braiding river (the present one). The
wavelength, the width and the gradient all have increased; the sinuosity, the radius of curvature and the
meander amplitude have decreased. The cause of the changes is the sharp increase in the sediment load of the
river. the width to depth ratio has increased and also in absolute terms the depth of the river may be less than
during the former meandering state. attenuation of the peak flows by overbank flow still take place and it is
therefore difficult to conclude whether the peak flows have increased or not. However, the higher discharges
may have become more irregular. The image provides a diagnosis for profound changes in the regime of the
river during recent times.

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Watershed management with the aid of remote sensing

Watershed management contains all activities concerning sustained use, protection or rehabilitation of the
water, soil and vegetation resource base in the upper parts or headwater systems of larger river basins.
Various operational levels can be distinguished in watershed management, ranging from large basins,
watersheds, sub-
watershed to local scale (sheng, 1990). As the detail of survey increases, one finally arrives at the farm or
community level of survey and inventory. The range of levels is reflected by the range of spatial resolutions
of aerospace images used. Compared to aerial photographs, satellite images such as LANDSAT MSS, TM
and IRS LISS II, have a relative low spatial resolution. They provide overviews at regional scale, particularly
of land cover. With other information they are used for zoning of areas or watersheds within larger
catchments in order to list priority for treatment. In some countries, the concept of 'critical' areas is used and
the priority depends on the
proportion of critical areas within the catchment. critical areas are those where the land cover which offers
little protection to erosion, such as row crops or overgrazed rangelands, occurring in combination with
certain lithologies — i.e. those where soils] which are susceptible to erosion —, and with dissected, sloping
lands. At the other end of the range, large scale aerial photographs, say, 1:10.000 or 1:20.000 are used. Apart
from the details of land cover and infrastructure visible on the photographs,] they offer the possibility of
stereographic interpretation of the geomorphology and morphometry of the terrain. The topographic
information at large scales thus derived can save much time and costs for the preparation of so called
"engineering designs" for the planning of soil conservation measures which follows the priority assessment
using smaller scales.

Hydrologic photo-interpretation for watershed management

Watershed management, and especially the planning of sustainable soil & water use, requires detailed
hydrologic information pertaining to the terrain and vegetation, as well as to their interactions. The larger
scales of stereo aerial photography are eminently suitable for studying the interactions by visual
interpretation. These interpretations must be embedded in basic background knowledge of geology,
geomorphology and soils and on the effects of such terrain factors on the hydrology of the area.

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Small-scale water resource development and remote sensing

It can be generally expected that the attention to small-scale water resource develop-ment will continue to
increase in the near future, considering the environmental problems and world-wide debate about large dams
(siwt, 1994). also the excessive exploitation and contamination problems of large groundwater aquifers in
several countries (vbra & zaporozec, 1994), the water quality impacts of agriculture, urbanization and
industry on surface waters in general lead to an increased stress per capita on drinking water availability on a
worldwide basis. Zoning and design of local water development schemes in a certain region require the study
of the enormous variation of combinations of terrain and vegetation factors in nature.

Without the use of remotely sensed imagery, it is difficult to avail of sufficient information, considering the
lack of soil maps and hydrometric information in large parts of the world. The following two paragraphs
illustrate the use of remote sensing in some typical small-scale water resource development operations.

Flood spreading and groundwater recharge

The following example illustrates the use of remote sensed imagery for locating a flood-spreading scheme
for shallow groundwater recharge, to be used for local irrigation. Colour Plate 15.B shows a color composite
image of Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper bands 4, 7 and 1 of a study area east of Fasa, Shiraz, Southern Iran.
Episodic flood runoff in this region is lost to playas or to the sea. Some of that water can be intercepted using
a floodwater spreading scheme for artificial recharge, if three criteria are satisfied: (a) the catchment must
have an adequate size to generate sufficient runoff, but not be too large to deal with high discharges for a
simple diversion, (b) the area of infiltration should be close to the ephemeral river and be underlain by
permeable deposits, and (c) the infiltrated water should recharge a shallow aquifer from which the water can
be pumped for irrigation. As can be seen on the image, the criteria are met in this case. Peak flows from the
moderately sized catchment (shown in part) are diverted from the river where it flows on an alluvial fan (A),
into parallel diversion channels which feed - sandy - infiltration basins (B), described in detail by Kowsar
(1989). The evidence of an aquifer can be inferred from the presence of groundwater irrigated fields at the
lower part of the alluvial fan. Geomorphological interpretation of the image leads to a differentiation of
deposits of small local fans (D), not of interest, the upper sandy part of the main alluvial fan (A) Sutable for a
recharge scheme, and the lower part (C) with heavier soil textures. The latter part may be less suitable for

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artificial infiltration, but has fewer losses of irrigation water. A ground water model was used to assessment
of recharge.

Runoff water harvesting with the aid of remote sensing

Runoff water harvesting basically is a technique by which surface runoff is collected purposely in a smaller
infiltration area, where it can be used for crop production or plant growth. The technique of collecting
rainwater was already practiced during early civilisations (hillel, 1967). The determination of potential sites
for runoff harvesting or irrigation require besides knowledge of the rainfall regime characteristics, a detailed

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evaluation of surface topography, surface soil properties and other site environmental parameters. Remote
sensing techniques combined with geography information systems have been applied to screen larger areas
for potential runoff irrigation sites in the sahelian region (tauer & humborg, 1992). For more detailed
surveys, large scale stereo-images enable the identification and mapping of some of the relevant parameters.

Irrigation water management and remote sensing

It is estimated that the world's irrigated area is at present in the order of 270 milium ha. this is only 17% of
the world's total cropped area but accounts for about one third of the world's food harvest (smedema, 1993).
despite this important contribution to agriculture, the performance of the irrigated agriculture sector has, in
general, been disappointing. a basic reason is the low efficiency in the use of available water resources. In
some projects, 60% of the diverted water does not actually contribute to crop water requirements. technical
problem, arise because irrigation water supplies have not been well been distributed. at the form level, water
supply may be unreliable supply and demands seem rarely to coincide or farmers practice poor and
inefficient irrigation methods.

Remote sensing technique permit the quantitative analysis of problems associated with the poor water
distribution of irrigation perimeters .Inadequate water supply is clearly reflected in differences in cropping
patterns intensities and crop development features which can be conveniently detected and mapped by
satellite images.

The remote sensing when was introduced in hydrology in seventies held a great deal if promise for hydrology
in spite of promise applied over engineering hydrology has bee slow to embrace remote sensing as a useful
recourse of data presumably because existing techniques and data has been satisfactory for limited
applications although the remote sensing is going to be proved great for hydrology and water resources

• Conclusion

• The ability to provide spatial data, rather than point data.

• The potential to provide measurement of hydrological variables not available through traditional techniques
such as soil moisture and snow water content.

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• The ability, through satellite sensors, to provide long-term, global-wide even for remote and generally
inaccessible regions of the earth,

• The possibility, to acquire rs data for larger areas with a high resolution in space and time at one spot (e.g.
weather radar receiving station, satellite center) and in real-time, which may serve as basis for water
management decision in real-time.

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