Water Resources Management

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 1591-1613

First online:

The use of NDVI and its Derivatives for Monitoring Lake Victoria’s Water Level and Drought Conditions

  • Paul OmuteAffiliated withKyambogo Universities
  • , Rob CornerAffiliated withCurtin University of Technology
  • , Joseph Langat AwangeAffiliated withCurtin University of TechnologyKarlsruhe Institute of Technology Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which is a measure of vegetation vigour, and lake water levels respond variably to precipitation and its deficiency. For a given lake catchment, NDVI may have the ability to depict localized natural variability in water levels in response to weather patterns. This information may be used to decipher natural from unnatural variations of a given lake’s surface. This study evaluates the potential of using NDVI and its associated derivatives (VCI (vegetation condition index), SVI (standardised vegetation index), AINDVI (annually integrated NDVI), green vegetation function (F g ), and NDVIA (NDVI anomaly)) to depict Lake Victoria’s water levels. Thirty years of monthly mean water levels and a portion of the Global Inventory Modelling and Mapping Studies (GIMMS) AVHRR (Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer) NDVI datasets were used. Their aggregate data structures and temporal co-variabilities were analysed using GIS/spatial analysis tools. Locally, NDVI was found to be more sensitive to drought (i.e., responded more strongly to reduced precipitation) than to water levels. It showed a good ability to depict water levels one-month in advance, especially in moderate to low precipitation years. SVI and SWL (standardized water levels) used in association with AINDVI and AMWLA (annual mean water levels anomaly) readily identified high precipitation years, which are also when NDVI has a low ability to depict water levels. NDVI also appears to be able to highlight unnatural variations in water levels. We propose an iterative approach for the better use of NDVI, which may be useful in developing an early warning mechanisms for the management of lake Victoria and other Lakes with similar characteristics.


NDVI Lake Victoria Water levels Drought Catchment basin Lake variability