Latest Research News on Surface Water : Mar 2022

Measuring surface water from space

Surface fresh water is essential for life, yet we have surprisingly poor knowledge of the spatial and temporal dynamics of surface freshwater discharge and changes in storage globally. For example, we are unable to answer such basic questions as “What is the spatial and temporal variability of water stored on and near the surface of all continents?” Furthermore, key societal issues, such as the susceptibility of life to flood hazards, cannot be answered with the current global, in situ networks designed to observe river discharge at points but not flood events. The measurements required to answer these hydrologic questions are surface water area, the elevation of the water surface (h), its slope (∂h/∂x), and temporal change (∂h/∂t). Advances in remote sensing hydrology, particularly over the past 10 years and even more recently, have demonstrated that these hydraulic variables can be measured reliably from orbiting platforms. Measurements of inundated area have been used to varying degrees of accuracy as proxies for discharge but are successful only when in situ data are available for calibration; they fail to indicate the dynamic topography of water surfaces. Radar altimeters have a rich, multidecadal history of successfully measuring elevations of the ocean surface and are now also accepted as capable tools for measuring h along orbital profiles crossing freshwater bodies. However, altimeters are profiling tools, which, because of their orbital spacings, miss too many freshwater bodies to be useful hydrologically. High spatial resolution images of ∂h/∂t have been observed with interferometric synthetic aperture radar, but the method requires emergent vegetation to scatter radar pulses back to the receiving antenna. Essentially, existing spaceborne methods have been used to measure components of surface water hydraulics, but none of the technologies can singularly supply the water volume and hydraulic measurements that are needed to accurately model the water cycle and to guide water management practices. Instead, a combined imaging and elevation-measuring approach is ideal as demonstrated by the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), which collected images of h at a high spatial resolution (∼90 m) thus permitting the calculation of ∂h/∂x. We suggest that a future satellite concept, the Water and Terrestrial Elevation Recovery mission, will improve upon the SRTM design to permit multitemporal mappings of h across the world’s wetlands, floodplains, lakes, reservoirs, and rivers.[1]

Assessment of the surface water quality in Northern Greece

The application of different multivariate statistical approaches for the interpretation of a large and complex data matrix obtained during a monitoring program of surface waters in Northern Greece is presented in this study. The dataset consists of analytical results from a 3-yr survey conducted in the major river systems (Aliakmon, Axios, Gallikos, Loudias and Strymon) as well as streams, tributaries and ditches. Twenty-seven parameters have been monitored on 25 key sampling sites on monthly basis (total of 22,350 observations). The dataset was treated using cluster analysis (CA), principal component analysis and multiple regression analysis on principal components. CA showed four different groups of similarity between the sampling sites reflecting the different physicochemical characteristics and pollution levels of the studied water systems. Six latent factors were identified as responsible for the data structure explaining 90% of the total variance of the dataset and are conditionally named organic, nutrient, physicochemical, weathering, soil-leaching and toxic-anthropogenic factors. A multivariate receptor model was also applied for source apportionment estimating the contribution of identified sources to the concentration of the physicochemical parameters. This study presents the necessity and usefulness of multivariate statistical assessment of large and complex databases in order to get better information about the quality of surface water, the design of sampling and analytical protocols and the effective pollution control/management of the surface waters.[2]

Measuring methods for groundwater – surface water interactions: a review

Interactions between groundwater and surface water play a fundamental role in the functioning of riparian ecosystems. In the context of sustainable river basin management it is crucial to understand and quantify exchange processes between groundwater and surface water. Numerous well-known methods exist for parameter estimation and process identification in aquifers and surface waters. Only in recent years has the transition zone become a subject of major research interest; thus, the need has evolved for appropriate methods applicable in this zone. This article provides an overview of the methods that are currently applied and described in the literature for estimating fluxes at the groundwater – surface water interface. Considerations for choosing appropriate methods are given including spatial and temporal scales, uncertainties, and limitations in application. It is concluded that a multi-scale approach combining multiple measuring methods may considerably constrain estimates of fluxes between groundwater and surface water.[3]

Assessment of seasonal variations in surface water quality

Assessment of seasonal changes in surface water quality is an important aspect for evaluating temporal variations of river pollution due to natural or anthropogenic inputs of point and non-point sources. In this study, surface water quality data for 16 physical and chemical parameters collected from 22 monitoring stations in a river during the years from 1998 to 2001 were analyzed. The principal component analysis technique was employed to evaluate the seasonal correlations of water quality parameters, while the principal factor analysis technique was used to extract the parameters that are most important in assessing seasonal variations of river water quality. Analysis shows that a parameter that is most important in contributing to water quality variation for one season may not be important for another season except for DOC and electrical conductance, which were always the most important parameters in contributing to water quality variations for all four seasons.[4]

Surface Water Supplies and Health

Rivers, streams, lakes, and reservoirs have long been important sources of drinking water. In the past, these sources were often heavily contaminated by sewage discharges and, unfortunately, were also important in the transmission of communicable diseases such as typhoid and cholera. With improvements in sewage disposal practices, development and protection of water sources, and water treatment, outbreaks of waterborne disease are less frequently reported, and drinking water becomes a less important route of transmission of communicable disease. In the United States, the incidence of waterborne disease is low but waterborne outbreaks continue to occur. Outbreak statistics are reported in this article, and information is presented on the causes of these outbreaks, especially in surface water systems.[5]


[1] Alsdorf, D.E., Rodríguez, E. and Lettenmaier, D.P., 2007. Measuring surface water from space. Reviews of Geophysics, 45(2).

[2] Simeonov, V., Stratis, J.A., Samara, C., Zachariadis, G., Voutsa, D., Anthemidis, A., Sofoniou, M. and Kouimtzis, T., 2003. Assessment of the surface water quality in Northern Greece. Water research, 37(17), pp.4119-4124.

[3] Kalbus, E., Reinstorf, F. and Schirmer, M., 2006. Measuring methods for groundwater–surface water interactions: a review. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 10(6), pp.873-887.

[4] Ouyang, Y., Nkedi-Kizza, P., Wu, Q.T., Shinde, D. and Huang, C.H., 2006. Assessment of seasonal variations in surface water quality. Water research, 40(20), pp.3800-3810.

[5] Craun, G.F., 1988. Surface water supplies and health. Journal‐American Water Works Association, 80(2), pp.40-52.

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