Environmental Management

, Volume 45, Issue 5, pp 1164–1174 | Cite as

Evaluating Conservation Program Success with Landsat and SWAT

  • Michael J. White
  • Daniel E. Storm
  • Philip Busteed
  • Scott Stoodley
  • Shannon J. Phillips


In the United States, many state and federally funded conservation programs are required to quantify the water quality benefits resulting from their efforts. The objective of this research was to evaluate the impact of conservation practices subsidized by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission on phosphorus and sediment loads to Lake Wister. Conservation practices designed to increase vegetative cover in grazed pastures were evaluated using Landsat imagery and the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). Several vegetative indices were derived from Landsat imagery captured before and after the implementation of conservation practices. Collectively, these indicators provided an estimate of the change in vegetative soil cover attributable to conservation practices in treated fields. Field characteristics, management, and changes in vegetative cover were used in the SWAT model to simulate sediment and phosphorus losses before and after practice implementation. Overall, these conservation practices yielded a 1.9% improvement in vegetative cover and a predicted sediment load reduction of 3.5%. Changes in phosphorus load ranged from a 1.0% improvement to a 3.5% increase, depending upon initial vegetative conditions. The use of fertilizers containing phosphorus as a conservation practice in low-productivity pastures was predicted by SWAT to increase net phosphorus losses despite any improvement in vegetative cover. This combination of vegetative cover analysis and hydrologic simulation was a useful tool for evaluating the effects of conservation practices at the basin scale and may provide guidance for the selection of conservation measures subsidized in future conservation programs.


SWAT Modeling Watershed management Nutrients Nonpoint source pollution Remote sensing 



We would like to thank the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency region VI, and Oklahoma State University for funding this research. We would also like to thank Leflore and Latimer County conservation district and U.S. Natural Resources and Conservation Service personnel for their assistance with local aspects of this project.


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Copyright information

© US Government 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. White
    • 1
  • Daniel E. Storm
    • 2
  • Philip Busteed
    • 3
  • Scott Stoodley
    • 4
  • Shannon J. Phillips
    • 5
  1. 1.USDA-ARS Grassland, Soil, and Water Research LaboratoryTempleUSA
  2. 2.Biosystems Engineering, 110 Ag Hall, Oklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  3. 3.USDA-ARS, Grazinglands Research LaboratoryEl RenoUSA
  4. 4.V.P. Water Resources, ENTRIX Inc.NashuaUSA
  5. 5.Water Quality Division, Oklahoma Conservation CommissionOklahoma CityUSA

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