Using Remote Sensing in support of solutions to reduce agricultural water productivity gaps

Photo credit: USGS



Background


Managing water resources in a sustainable manner is a major challenge for achieving food security now and in the future. As the largest user of water, managing agriculture water consumption for the highest production is essential. Exploring opportunities to increase water productivity and a careful monitoring is required. FAO has therefore developed a publicly accessible near real time database using satellite data that allows monitoring of agricultural water productivity. FAO’s portal to monitor Water Productivity through Open-access of Remotely sensed derived data (WaPOR) provides decadal information on water consumption and biomass production.

WaPOR assists countries in monitoring water productivity, identifying water productivity gaps, proposing solutions to reduce these gaps and contributing to a sustainable increase of agricultural production. At the same time, it takes into account ecosystems and the equitable use of water resources, which should lead eventually to an overall reduction of water stress.

By providing near real time pixel information, WaPOR opens the door for service-providers to assist farmers in obtaining more reliable yields and improving their livelihoods. At the same time, irrigation authorities have access to information to modernize their irrigation schemes and government agencies are able to use this information to promote and increase the efficient use of their natural resources.

The four major outputs of this project are:

  1. An operational database, covering Africa and the Near East to monitor agricultural water and land productivity
  2. An assessment of agricultural water and land productivity, productivity gaps and capacity development to close these gaps
  3. An assessment of the consequences and sustainability of possible increases in water productivity in agriculture
  4. Capacity development of stakeholders to increase water productivity sustainably
WaPOR website

The specific IHE Delft objectives of the project are as follows:

  1. Design of a Measurements-Reporting-Verification mechanism for the land and productivity database developed under output 1
  2. Quality control of associated spatial data components such as biomass production, actual and reference evapotranspiration and rainfall
  3. Quantifying the role of agricultural water flows (e.g. rainfall, irrigation, evapotranspiration, drainage, and recharge) in a river basin context with competing users.
  4. Provide a number of alternative solutions for sustaining food production in a profitable manner, also under conditions of a changing climate with lower rainfall and higher ET rates


Outputs

IHE Delft contributes to this project by providing water accounting for 5 major basins, Litani, Jordan, Niger, Nile, and Awash Rivers (output 3). In addition, IHE Delft has performed a quality assessment of the WaPOR database using continental level datasets, country and basin level comparisons and point comparisons with field observations. IHE Delft provides input into output 2 with regard to method development, validation and field work through research projects of MSc and PhD students. In addition, IHE Delft is the lead in training activities of staff in ministries, knowledge institutes, river basin authorities, irrigation authorities, farmers organizations and others (output 4).


Water Accounting


Awash River basin - Ethiopia

This report provides the water accounting study for the Awash River Basin in the central Rift Valley of Ethiopia which is experiencing water scarcity. The water accounting has been carried out by IHE Delft using the FAO Water Productivity (WaPOR) data portal, to gain full insights into the state of the water resources in the basin for the period from 2009 to 2018.

FAO and IHE Delft, 2020. Water Accounting in Awash River Basin. FAO water accounting reports. Rome

Litani River basin – Lebanon

This report provides the water accounting study for Litani River basin in Lebanon, one of the key river basins in the country which is experiencing water scarcity. The water accounting has been carried out by IHE Delft using the FAO Water Productivity (WaPOR) data portal, to gain full insights into the state of the water resources in the basin for the period 2010 to 2016.

FAO and IHE Delft, 2019. Water Accounting in Litani River Basin. FAO water accounting reports. Rome

Jordan River basin – Middle East

This report describes the rapid water accounting study for the Jordan River Basin using the Water Productivity (WaPOR) database. The water accounting has been carried out in collaboration with IHE Delft using the FAO Water Productivity (WaPOR) data portal, to gain full insights into the state of the water resources in the basin for the period from 2009 to 2018.

FAO and IHE Delft, 2020. Water Accounting in Jordan River Basin. FAO water accounting reports. Rome

Nile River basin – East and Northern Africa

The Nile River Basin faces a huge challenge in terms of water security. With an expected doubling of the population in the basin in the next twenty-five years, water supply in the basin will be further depleted as demands for agriculture, domestic and industry continues to grow. This report describes the water accounting study for the Nile River Basin carried out by IHE-Delft using the Water Productivity (WaPOR) data portal of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

FAO and IHE Delft, 2020. Water Accounting in Nile River Basin. FAO water accounting reports. Rome

Niger River basin – West Africa

The Niger River Basin is one of the largest transboundary river basins globally, covering a wide range of latitudes and longitudes. The climate over its area is diverse and the water availability is affected by high rainfall variability, with long periods of drought and damaging floods. There are many opportunities for water resources development in the basin, however, their realization maybe challenged by socio-economic limitations and lack of an overview of the state of the water resources of the basin. This report describes the water accounting study for the Niger River Basin carried out by IHE-Delft using the Water Productivity (WaPOR) data portal of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

FAO and IHE Delft, 2020. Water Accounting in Niger River Basin. FAO water accounting reports. Rome


Quality Assessment

WaPOR v 1.0 Quality assessment

This report describes the results of the quality assessment per data layer for each specific theme, as available on the FAO's data portal to monitor Water Productivity through Open access of Remotely sensed derived data (WaPOR 1.0). The quality assessment checks the consistency of the different layers and compares the individual layers to various other independent data sources.

FAO and IHE Delft, 2019. WaPOR quality assessment. Technical report on the data quality of the WaPOR FAO database version 1.0. Rome. 134 pp.


Capacity building

Training materials were developed for 4 topics:

  1. WaPOR introduction
  2. Remote sensing (RS) and GIS
  3. Water Productivity (WP)
  4. Water Accounting (WA)


Face to face trainings were organised over a 2-year period (2017-2019) for more than 500 participants from 15 countries in Africa and the MENA region (with additional support from DGIS).



Open courseware

IHE Delft and FAO have developed an open online course to teach end-users how to actively use the WaPOR portal for their own needs. The main focus of the course will be on how to search, download, and apply WaPOR data for water productivity and water accounting studies.

The course is free to attend and is open to all who are interested. A reliable internet connection is required. The course is self-paced with units being released on a weekly basis. A certificate of completion can be obtained after completing Module 1 and either Module 2 or 3. The English version has been made available in September 2020, the French and Arabic translations will be available from 28 March 2021. More information and enrolment information can be found at:

For whom?

Water Productivity and Water Accounting using WaPOR is an online course targeting practitioners and academicians who are working in water resources management and related fields and have an interest in using open access remote sensing data and other open-access data to assess the water resources situation in their region. They are also interested in conducting water productivity and/or water accounting analyses, including to study how water productivity improvements can have an effect on different water users in a river basin context.

To properly follow this course, we expect that the participants have a basic understanding of hydrology, irrigation agronomy, remote sensing, and working knowledge of GIS data.

Currently there are over 950 people enrolled to the English course. The map below shows number of participants following Water Productivity and Water Accounting OCW by country (status according to filled-in pre-course survey Dec 2020)


Open-access materials


AQUAMAPS - Water Accounting


Through this project, IHE Delft is working closely in collaboration with FAO to publish the spatial data used in the water accounts on the FAO Aquamaps portal.



Github repository

“github”/

The project developed several Python scripts to use WaPOR data for water accounting analyses. The scripts used for Jordan, Awash, Nile, and Niger rapid water accounts have been compiled into Jupyter notebooks and published to WAPORWA Github repository. This repository includes scripts for collecting and pre-processing WaPOR data, running pixel-based soil-moisture balance model to account for incremental and rainfall ET, incorporating available observed outflow data, and computing fluxes in Sheet 1 - Resource Base.


Other materials

“waterpip”/

The Water Productivity Improvement in Practice (Water-PIP) project is a spin-off of the WaPOR project. The project started in 2018 and will end in 2022. The project is implemented in collaboration with Wageningen University (WUR) MetaMeta, Eleaf and FAO. The project aims to facilitate the increase in crop water productivity in DGIS partner countries in Africa and Near East region. The project utilises the WaPOR database to improve the water productivity analyses (temporal trends and spatial variability) and to provide more insight into the database for practical application. The project developed protocols on how to use WaPOR data for water productivity analyses, turn them into scripts for quick analyses. ( WAPORWP Github repository). In 2020, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, planned masterclasses were converted to a series of webinars. All materials are available on the project website.