Hyperspectral Remote Sensing of Water Quality

  1. Agricultural runoff

Fertilizers and animal manure,  both rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, are the primary sources of nutrient pollution from agricultural sources. Excess nutrients can impact water quality creating toxic algae blooms, that depletes the water of oxygen when the algae die and are eaten by bacteria. Finally, this pollution contributes to creating death zones in the ocean.


2) Design of an agricultural runoff monitoring and reward system for the upper Chesapeake Bay – IEEE- Advancing Technology for Humanity

  • Optical indicators of water quality have the potential to reduce agricultural runoff, by enhancing resource managers to monitor water bodies in a timely and cost-effective manner.
  • “Nitrogen and phosphorus levels can be detected with spectral imagery. As objects on the ground absorb sunlight, they give off a reflectance. The relative intensity of this reflectance is different at certain wavelengths for certain elements, which gives a chemical element’s spectral signature. Multispectral and hyperspectral systems are the two primary systems used today. ” Harry Yoo, George Mason University.
  • Hyperspectral systems can be introduced to monitor nutrient levels on farmland, and work as a data input to create policies and incentivize farmers to adopt best management practices.

3) Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are organizations will need to use the technology.

4) The mapping from some waterbodies will be indispensable to create solutions towards toxic algae bloom caused by agricultural runoff.

  • Capacity building in the different organizations is a first requirement to deploy remote sensing technologies such as hyper-spectral images to collect data from polluted waterbodies. Data collection will require coordination between the different organizations to be more efficient in the impact generated.
  • Once the data is collected it is possible to map the pollution and build a strategy to reduce the runoff through policies.
  • Lastly, to monitor the impact of these policies will be crucial to measure the success of these, and in the given case to re-evaluate the policy strategy.

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