Using Remote Sensing and Ground Measurements to Improve Evaporation Estimation and Reservoir Management
Can we: i) improve reservoir evaporation estimates; ii) make near real-time data available to water managers; iii) develop tools for decision makers to improve reservoir management
Need and Benefit
Evaporative losses from reservoirs are not well understood due to climatic conditions, size and shape of the reservoir,
and reservoir operations. However, these losses have the potential to be managed through science based decision
making tools. The current method(s) used to estimate and account for evaporative losses rely upon technology from a
century ago (i.e. Class A Evaporation Pan) and area-capacity tables for individual reservoirs. Technological advances
using remote sensing (e.g. LandSat-8) and highly sensitive instrumentation (i.e. 3-D Sonic Anemometer with
hygrometer, infrared sensor, etc.) have shown the potential to be used in estimating evaporation losses on spatial and
temporal scale with more accuracy. Preliminary studies (BoR Technical Report RO5AC40438 2013) have been
conducted at Elephant Butte and Caballo reservoirs by US Bureau of Reclamation and New Mexico State University.
Results of these studies have shown a potential for limiting losses by optimizing storage between two reservoirs and
have been used as a basis for supporting Reclamation's operating plan for utilizing Caballo reservoir seasonal
storage. Reclamation's stake-holders would like to see additional studies to support decision making with an emphasis
on minimizing water losses. Further development of these technologies using reservoir bathymetry, remote sensing
coupled with simple yet robust sensors deployed onshore and offshore are needed. Tools developed from this study,
which includes evaporation measurements, can be applied at other reservoir projects to assist decision makers in
better reservoir management.
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