A Pathway to the Automated Global Assessment of Water Level in Reservoirs with Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)

TitleA Pathway to the Automated Global Assessment of Water Level in Reservoirs with Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsPark E, Merino E, Lewis QW, Lindsey EO, Yang X
JournalRemote Sensing
Volume12
Issue8
Date Published04/2020
Abstract

Global measurements of reservoir water levels are crucial for understanding Earth’s hydrological dynamics, especially in the context of global industrialization and climate change. Although radar altimetry has been used to measure the water level of some reservoirs with high accuracy, it is not yet feasible unless the water body is sufficiently large or directly located at the satellite’s nadir. This study proposes a gauging method applicable to a wide range of reservoirs using Sentinel–1 Synthetic Aperture Radar data and a digital elevation model (DEM). The method is straightforward to implement and involves estimating the mean slope–corrected elevation of points along the reservoir shoreline. We test the model on six case studies and show that the estimated water levels are accurate to around 10% error on average of independently verified values. This study represents a substantial step toward the global gauging of lakes and reservoirs of all sizes and in any location where a DEM is available.

DOI10.3390/rs12081353