Africa-Wide Monitoring of Small Surface Water Bodies Using Multisource Satellite Data: A Monitoring System for FEWS NET

  • Naga M. Velpuri
  • Gabriel B. Senay
  • James Rowland
  • James P. Verdin
  • Henok Alemu


Continental Africa has the highest volume of water stored in wetlands, large lakes, reservoirs, and rivers, yet it suffers from problems such as water availability and access. With climate change intensifying the hydrologic cycle and altering the distribution and frequency of rainfall, the problem of water availability and access will increase further. Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has initiated a large-scale project to monitor small to medium surface water points in Africa. Under this project, multisource satellite data and hydrologic modeling techniques are integrated to monitor several hundreds of small to medium surface water points in Africa. This approach has been already tested to operationally monitor 41 water points in East Africa. The validation of modeled scaled depths with field-installed gauge data demonstrated the ability of the model to capture both the spatial patterns and seasonal variations. Modeled scaled estimates captured up to 60 % of the observed gauge variability with a mean root-mean-square error (RMSE) of 22 %. The data on relative water level, precipitation, and evapotranspiration (ETo) for water points in East and West Africa were modeled since 1998 and current information is being made available in near-real time. This chapter presents the approach, results from the East African study, and the first phase of expansion activities in the West Africa region. The water point monitoring network will be further expanded to cover much of sub-Saharan Africa. The goal of this study is to provide timely information on the water availability that would support already established FEWS NET activities in Africa. This chapter also presents the potential improvements in modeling approach to be implemented during future expansion in Africa.


Water monitoring Surface water Hydrologic modeling Remote sensing Multisource satellite data Africa Water resources management 



This work was made possible by the funding made available from NASA, USAID, Global Livestock CRISP, and United States Geological Survey (USGS) Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) Program. Initial model development and application in East Africa region was funded by Applied Science Program of NASA Earth-Sun System Division contract # NNA06CH751. Mapping and model development activities in the West Africa (Mali) region were funded by the Global Livestock CRSP program. We are thankful to the USGS FEWS NET (GR12D00BRHA100) program for funding the continuation and expansion on water point monitoring over sub-Saharan Africa. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the USA government. We are also thankful to the USGS reviewers for their useful and insightful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Naga M. Velpuri
    • 1
  • Gabriel B. Senay
    • 2
  • James Rowland
    • 2
  • James P. Verdin
    • 2
  • Henok Alemu
    • 3
  1. 1.ASRC Federal InuTeq, LLCContactor to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) CenterSioux FallsUSA
  2. 2.USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) CenterSioux FallsUSA
  3. 3.Geographic Information Science Center of Excellence (GIScCE)South Dakota State UniversityBrookingsUSA

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