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Using Satellites to Address Issues Related to Transboundary Waters, Droughts, Floods, and Climate Change in Africa and Asia. World Water Week Stockholm. Sweden September 5, 2013 Rick Lawford (MSU) David Toll (NASA) (with thanks to many NASA-funded investigators whose work is cited ).

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Using Satellites to Address Issues Related to

Transboundary Waters, Droughts, Floods, and

Climate Change in Africa and Asia

World Water Week

Stockholm. Sweden

September 5, 2013

Rick Lawford (MSU)

David Toll (NASA)

(with thanks to many NASA-funded investigators whose work is cited)


Africa and Asia are two priority areas for GEO and CEOS

Africa is an area of special interest because the needs of some nations

are large and the developed world can all contribute to this region

without stepping into another major Space Agency’s “territory”.

Asia is an area of special interest because 60% of the world’s population

lives in this area and are affected by the extremes and climate changes that

are taking place there.

GEO Water in Africa GEO Water in Asia



Japan: AfWCCI Japan: AWCI


Water Management in

Transboundary River Basins


Asia and Africa have a large number of transboundary basins

which complicate water management

  • UNEP/GEF Volta TDA -priority transboundary concerns:
  • (From Dr. Jacob TUMBULTO)
  • Changes in water quantity and seasonality of flows
  • Degradation of Aquatic Ecosystems
  • Degradation of Surface Water Quality/Pollution
  • Invasive Aquatic Species
  • Land Degradation/ Loss of Vegetative Cover
  • Loss of Biodiversity
  • Water related diseases
  • Coastal Erosion

In practice, while some nations basin-wide planning is done in some

TB basins, the sharing of information and data is limited in many other

TB basins.


The Nile River Basin is an example of the challenges of a

  • transboundary basin.
  • In the past water use in
  • the upstream and the
  • downstream nations have
  • been a source of conflict and
  • tension. The lack of data
  • sharing has led to conflicts
  • over:
  • infrastructure planning,
  • flood preparation,
  • irrigation.



nasa launched project nile to deal with these this lack of information sharing
NASA launched Project Nile to deal with these this lack of information-sharing

Goal: improved hydrometeorological information for research, planning, and water management in the Nile basin.

  • Components:
  • Land cover mapping and simulation
  • Satellite-derived evapotranspiration
  • Optimized models for hydrological analysis
  • Integration to Decision Support
applications hydropower optimization
Applications:Hydropower optimization

Long-term satellite data records which are continuous in space, land data assimilation products, and hydrological model outputs provided data that helped in the design of a plan for hydropower station.


Coping with drought impacts to

support food security


Many parts of Africa are threatened by drought and the associated food shortages. With effective monitoring and prediction it is possible for Aid Agencies to ensure that food is available at the right locations when it is needed. FEWSNET (USAID, USGS) has been providing monitoring and forecast information for a number of years.

Satellite remote sensing and land data assimilation fill gaps in areas with sparse in-situ measurement networks, and provide the basis for early detection of agricultural drought

areas of agricultural drought are mapped with the water requirement satisfaction index wrsi
Areas of Agricultural Drought are mapped with the Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI)

(after J. Verdin)

Food prices determine the cost of food aid.


WRSI = f (ppt, pet, WHC, Crop Type, SOS, EOS, LGP)

Kc - FAO

FAO soils map


FEWS NET – Food Security Outlook

Food Security Situation: March 2011

  • Current status (Mar), projection period (Apr-Sep)

Pastoral areas;

poor households;

basic survival

needs not met,

food deficits in

marginal cropping


Current status (Mar)

Multi-agency participation




Food Security & Nutrition Working Group

Central and East Africa


The Famine Early Warning Systems Network


  • Using NASA Land Information System (LIS) to Help Extend Coverage beyond Sub-Sahara
  • Satellite Precipitation
  • Satellite Snow Cover and Snow Water Equivalent
  • Satellite Vegetation Greenness
  • Yield Forecasting

Red – Current countries

Yellow – Weather/agricultural outcomes & availability/access monitoring

Green – Weather/agricultural outcomes


Climate Change is affecting:

  • The rate at which glaciers are melting.
  • The beginning and the end of the snow season and the
  • proportion on precipitation that falls as snow.
  • - The timing of snow melt.

(J. Dozier)

The accumulated snow water varies

considerably from year to year. With climate

change new trends with lower accumulations

are expected to emerge

The Hindu Kush -Himalayan (HKH) region, which

extends 3,500 km and includes many mountain

glaciers, is the source of the 10 major

rivers in Asia.

NASA has been developing tools and products that will allow users to monitor the impact of these trends on water resources

Snow Water Volume Charts

Snow Accumulation/Depletion Curves


John Bolten (PI), Code 617, NASA GSFC  

Enhancing Floodplain Management in the Lower Mekong River Basin Using NASA Vegetation and Water Cycle Satellite Observations

Figure 1. The Mekong River Basin

Figure 4. USGS co-investigators are building a Graphic Visualization Tool (GVT) to work in concert with the output of the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model.


Floods: Satellite data are critical pre-event, during flood

events and for post-event flood response

Pre-event: The saturation of the soil and the water stored in reservoirs either serve as storage areas for excess precipitation or they aggravate flooding conditions be enabling more water to run off

Precipitation measurements will allow

better estimates of the rainfall amounts and

more accurate flood forecasts. (e.g., TRMM

rainfall over North Korea - Adler)

Post-event: The SWOT mission holds

promise of enabling emergency managers

to get better information on inundated areas

and thereby help in cleanup operations.


Water Information System Planning:

Mapping water stress in the MENA

USAID with World Bank Water Availability Using a NASA

Land Data Assimilation System (LDAS) for the ‘MENA’

Matt Rodell, John Bolten, David Toll, Shahid Habib (NASA/GSFC), Edwin Engman (NASA/GSFC/SAIC), Joseph Nigro (NASA/GSFC/SSAI), and Mutlu Ozdogan (U. Wisconsin)



GRACE terrestrial water storage

Water availability



NASA, USAID-’OMEP’, ICBA (International Center for Biosaline and Agriculture) and regional partners teamed to provide regional water resources assessments Using Satellite Data and Land Data Assimilation Systems.



Over the past two decades major advances have been

made in the production of useful data products from

water-related satellite data and in their application to

delivering aid and other benefits to societies in Asia

and Africa.

Over the next decade we can expect more advances in

the development of platforms and applications that

will make these data available to people in every

walk of life throughout Asia and Africa thus facilitating

“societal transformation through information.”