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Toward a satellite-based monitoring system for water quality

06 March 2018

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Declining water quality in inland and coastal systems has become, and will continue to be, a major environmental, social, and economic problem as human populations increase, agricultural activities expand, and climate change effects on hydrological cycles and extreme events become more pronounced. Providing government and non-government groups with timely observations on the time and location of anomalous water quality conditions can lead to more informed decisions about the use, management, and protection of water resources.

By observing the colour of the water, satellite sensors provide information on the concentrations of the constituents that give rise to these colours. These constituents include chlorophyll a (the primary photosynthetic pigment in phytoplankton), total suspended solids (an indicator of sediments and other insoluble material), and dissolved organic matter. Other environmentally relevant optical characteristics include turbidity and water clarity.

Source: Eos American Geophysical Union

Image credit: Norman Kuring / NASA - This natural-colour image from NASA's Landsat 8 satellite shows the Caspian Sea around the Tyuleniy Archipelago on 16 April 2016. Sea grass or benthic algae cause the dark green colours, and most of the fine lines are caused by winter ice gouging the seafloor.

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