Landsat’s Critical Role in Water Management
Water is essential for life. A third of Earth’s populace has unreliable access to clean water. With current population growth and environmental trends, the U.N. Environmental Program estimates that 1.8 billion people will face water scarcity by 2025. Water means survival for people and other species we rely upon to thrive, making proper stewardship of our water resources vital. Good decisions require good data. Since 1972 the Landsat series of satellites has been providing such data. Landsat-based decisions on how to manage limited water resources have impacted millions of people worldwide. From finding water for refugees in arid nations to reducing pollution in our national waterways, Landsat enables decisions that directly help people.
More frequent satellite observations, such as those of the Harmonized Landsat Sentinel-2 (HLS) dataset, are needed to fully capture flood dynamics in regions experiencing short-lived, ephemeral flooding.
An analysis of over a million Landsat images has revealed that 4,000 square kilometres of tidal wetlands have been lost globally over twenty years.
Satellites have helped show that strong tidal activity may facilitate water-induced fracturing, or hydrofracturing, where land ice transitions to floating ice shelf and cause the meltwater lake to drain quickly, often in as little as several days.
BBC’s Follow the Food documentary series has reported on Earth observations supporting food production, market stability and on-farm decisions.