High resolution satellite data for new soil water storage capacity application

Water managers all over the world are confronted with increasing challenges related to climate change. Floods and drought resulting from increasingly severe weather conditions cause worldwide economic damage, loss of nature, increased political and societal tensions and ultimately the loss of lives.

The right information at the right time

The lack of proper information on water availability is one of the most challenging obstacles in water management, especially in less developed economies. In many cases data is not available, incomplete or inaccessible. This leads to ineffective or erroneous decision making and can even cause more water problems.

Water managers have a wide range of (technological) measures at their disposal to prevent and mitigate the effects of floods and drought. With limited time and financial resources, it is crucial to facilitate the decision making process with proper, undisputed and timely information.

Real-time water storage capacity of the Dutch soil

Water managers in the Netherlands are responsible for the water distribution within a river basin or catchment area. Representatives from Dutch Regional Water Authorities indicated that the lack of reliable information on the water storage capacity of the soil is one of the most challenging problems in current water management processes. This hydrological variable determines both the risk of flooding during wet periods, and the need for irrigation in dry periods.

Together with ESA and various Dutch partners, HydroNET started the development of a soil water storage capacity application. The new tool will provide water managers with valuable insight in the current and forecasted water storage capacity of the soil. The application uses evapotranspiration data from satellites, precipitation from radar and groundwater data to calculate the water storage capacity of the soil.

Use of high resolution evapotranspiration data from satellites

Information on water distribution can be obtained from a number of resources like observations from the crowd, gauges, in situ-sensors, remote sensing and models. The last couple of decades the opportunities to monitor water availability from space have become more and more promising. With the launch of new satellites more data becomes available that can benefit water managers.

The service uses evapotranspiration data from satellites, precipitation from radar and groundwater data to calculate the water storage capacity of the soil. This information is presented to the end user in an easy to use web application.

The OWASIS-NL project

The new soil water capacity service is being developed as a part of the OWASIS-NL project. This project is part of the European Space Agency’s Integrated Applications Promotion Programme. The program focuses on the demonstration of innovative products and services that use satellite data.

This new information source is expected to be validated in the summer of 2017. At the beginning of 2018 testing of the operational information flow will start.