A recent White House-led assessment found that Landsat is among the Nation’s most critical Earth observing systems, second only to GPS and weather. A new USGS study, Landsat and Water — Case Studies of the Uses and Benefits of Landsat Imagery in Water Resources, provides examples of why Landsat is so valuable.
Landsat supports many types of resource management
The Landsat satellites have been a central data source for Earth science since the launch of Landsat 1 in 1972. In 2008 the use of Landsat data expanded dramatically when the USGS adopted a free and open data policy. Since then, the amount of Landsat data used, the number of users, and the variety of applications of the data have increased exponentially. Landsat is now used for both research and decision support by users ranging from government agencies and large corporations to individual scientists and entrepreneurs.
Landsat continues to shape our scientific understanding of how the Earth has changed with modern society. Furthermore, Landsat provides decision makers with critical operational information about the Nation’s – and the world’s – crops, forests, and water. For example, Landsat data helps forest managers design restoration after a wildfire and respond to insect infestations or disease. It helps states and counties identify land use practices that affect water quality and helps agricultural agencies forecast crop production both nationally and globally.
Landsat for water resources
Water is managed by many levels of federal, state, local, and tribal governments; by the private sector; through the courts; and through international and interstate treaties and compacts. At all these levels, water users and managers rely more and more on Landsat data about water conditions both at the moment and in the context of four decades of Landsat record.
The Nation’s largest wholesaler of water, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, uses Landsat data for mapping and monitoring on the lower Colorado River, including:
• monitoring agricultural water use
• annual estimates of evapotranspiration from riparian vegetation
• estimates of evaporation from the surface waters of the lower Colorado River
• identification of types, locations, and acreages of crops, irrigated lands, and riparian vegetation.
Landsat imagery makes it possible to generate this information at a level of accuracy that would otherwise not be feasible.