NASA satellite improves pollution monitoring

Jul 26, 2010
Seven study watersheds are within the Chesapeake Bay drainage basin. Credit: Joseph Nigro

NASA scientists improved watershed pollution monitoring models by incorporating satellite and ground-based observations of precipitation. The NASA data replaces weather station observations, and will allow states to monitor non-point pollution and improve water quality.

The research team, led by Joseph Nigro of Science Systems and Applications, Inc., incorporated two NASA products into a computer program in BASINS (Better Assessment Science Integrating Nonpoint Sources) that calculates streamflow rates and pollution concentrations.

The current model uses meteorological data from weather stations, which can miss precipitation events and cause errors in modeling water quality. With better precipitation data, scientists will be able to obtain better estimates of the amount of pollution a body of water can carry before it is determined to be "polluted."

The study revealed that both NASA products dramatically improved water quality model performance over the default weather stations. Both systems improved model performance but neither one was consistently better than the other. The NASA data systems were better able to capture the effects of water flow during storm periods that occur frequently in the summer months. This is due to the seamless coverage of the datasets as opposed to a single that cannot represent all precipitation events in a given watershed.

The two data products that were selected for this study are the NASA-modified North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS) 1/8th degree precipitation and the Stage IV 4-kilometer dataset developed by the NOAA River Forecast Center Multisensor Precipitation Estimator. The results from the study were reported in the July-August 2010 issue of the , published by the America Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America.

The researchers selected seven watersheds within the drainage basin to test the NASA-modified products. They were selected based on their dispersed locations within the drainage basin, an absence of reservoirs or diversions, and the presence of water quality data. Each watershed was also selected based on whether it represented a specific topographic and land cover/land use, so that the study could be conducted within a range of elevations and land cover types to understand how these variations affect the results.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that over 20,000 water bodies within the United States do not meet water quality standards. The models that this research aims to improve are designed to assessing pollution and to guide the decision making process for improving water quality. The 1972 Clean Water Act requires states to monitor the total daily load a body of water can carry before it is considered polluted.

Although states may also monitor with in-stream measuring and sampling, some states lack the resources to assess and protect water bodies with monitoring data alone. Models are a practical solution by taking into account the response of streams to storm runoff and .

Explore further: US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

More information: View the abstract at www.agronomy.org/publications/jeq/abstracts/39/4/1388

Provided by American Society of Agronomy

1 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bacterial persistence in streams

Aug 05, 2008

A research team from the University of Tennessee (UT) has completed a study on an East Tennessee river to determine the connection between watershed hydrology and fecal bacteria statistical time series analysis. Shesh Koirala ...

Water Quality Model Passes Another Test

Feb 25, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A test of the SWAT (Soil and Water Assessment Tool) model on a small watershed with poor water quality in Maryland showed that the model accurately estimated pollutant levels over the long ...

Pointing a finger at the source of fecal bacteria

May 23, 2007

Excessive levels of fecal bacteria were to blame for almost 60 percent of Nebraska streams deemed impaired by federal and state environmental laws in 2004. In order to develop effective pollution-control strategies, ...

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...