Satellite data helps prevent excessive irrigation •

Satellite data helps prevent excessive irrigation

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features farms in South Asia – where satellite data is helping farmers avoid excessive irrigation. The technology allows farmers to maximize their yield while conserving water.

Unsustainable water usage, including excessive irrigation, is a critical problem in South Asia due to water scarcity. Faisal Hossain is an environmental engineer at the University of Washington. His team has come up with a solution to end overwatering with the help of free satellite data. 

Last month, the researchers published a study which demonstrated that a staggering amount of groundwater could be saved using a satellite-based irrigation advisory system to alert farmers who are overwatering crops. The experts determined that text message advisories had the potential to save as much as 80 million cubic meters of water in India and 150 million in Pakistan.

“Water scarcity is a big issue in South Asia and in most places around the world,” said Hossain. “If you look at data, the 800-pound gorilla of water use is the food sector.” 

The satellite data is used to estimate the amount of evapotranspiration, the movement of moisture and heat from crops to the air. Based on the evapotranspiration level, it is possible to derive the amount of water being spread by farmers on their fields. When the amount of water used for irrigation is 20 percent higher than what is needed, the farmers receive text alerts. 

“I think this is a human rights issue for farmers to have free access to science-based best practices,” said Hossain. “If we want to talk about water sustainability, we have to make agricultural water use as efficient as possible by growing more with less water. Even if we can improve by just 1 percent, it translates to huge savings in water, more than what entire nations consume for domestic needs.”

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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