Groundwater management and development by integrated remote sensing and geographic information systems: prospects and constraints‏

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Groundwater management and development

by integrated remote sensing 

and geographic information systems:

 prospects and constraints‏

Madan K. Jha · Alivia Chowdhury · V. M. Chowdary · Stefan Peiffer

M. K. Jha  · A. Chowdhury
AgFE Department, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur – 721 302, India

V. M. Chowdary

RRSSC, ISRO, IIT Kharagpur Campus, India

S. Peiffer 

Chair of Hydrology, University of Bayreuth, 95440 Bayreuth, Germany

C Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2006

Water Resour Manage (2007) 21:427–467

Abstract Groundwater is one of the most valuable natural resources, which supports human health, economic development and ecological diversity. Overexploitation and unabated pollution of this vital resource is threatening our ecosystems and even the life of future generations. With the advent of powerful personal computers and the advances in space technology, efficient techniques for land and water management have evolved of which RS (remote sensing) and GIS (geographic information system) are of great significance. These techniques have fundamentally changed our thoughts and ways to manage natural resources in general and water resources in particular. The main intent of the present paper is to highlight RS and GIS technologies and to present a comprehensive review on their applications to groundwater hydrology. A detailed survey of literature revealed six major areas of RS and GIS applications in groundwater hydrology: (i) exploration and assessment of groundwater resources, (ii) selection of artificial recharge sites, (iii) GIS-based subsurface flow and pollution modeling, (iv) groundwater-pollution hazard assessment and protection planning, (v) estimation of natural recharge distribution, and (vi) hydrogeologic data analysis and process monitoring. Although the use of these techniques in groundwater studies has rapidly increased since early nineties, the success rate is very limited and most applications are still in their infancy. Based on this review, salient areas in need of further research and development are discussed, together with the constraints for RS and GIS applications in developing nations. More and more RSand GIS-based groundwater studies are recommended to be carried out in conjunction with field investigations to effectively exploit the expanding potential of RS and GIS technologies, which will perfect and standardize current applications as well as evolve new approaches and applications. It is concluded that both the RS and GIS technologies have great potential to revolutionize the monitoring and management of vital groundwater resources in the future, though some challenges are daunting before hydrogeologists/hydrologists. 

Keywords Remote sensing . Geographic information system (GIS) . GIS-based subsurface modeling . Groundwater vulnerability . Groundwater management .

6. Constraints for RS and GIS applications in developing nations 

  Based on the present review, it is evident that the groundwater studies using RS and GIS techniques in developing countries including India have shown some new application areas, but such studies are very limited. In addition, barring few, most studies are ad hoc in nature and demonstrate merely the use of RS data and/or GIS software. Standard methodology and the validation of RS- and GIS-based results with field data are usually missing. GISbased subsurface modeling is also highly restricted in developing nations, despite growing knowledge-base in this field in some developing nations. The principal reasons behind the limited and sub-standard applications of RS and GIS techniques in developing nations could be the security restrictions on maps and RS data imposed by the government and their unavailability for genuine uses (Narayana, 1999) as well as the scanty or lack of reliable field data because of poor or sometimes no groundwater monitoring facilities. It is unfortunate that while developed nations have started real-time groundwater monitoring using modern techniques (Todd and Mays, 2005), most developing nations have no adequate and dependable groundwater-monitoring programs even by traditional means. Apart from these major constraints, there are some more intricate problems related to the implementation of RS and GIS techniques in developing nations such as: (i) non-availability of high-resolution RS data for private, public and academic uses; (ii) poor data-distribution facility; (iii) high costs of RS data; (iv) poor knowledge about these developing technologies; (v) lack of adequate infrastructure, training, and support; (vi) insufficient skilled manpower in the government’s planning and development departments; and (vii) expensive RS and GIS software packages as well as their accessories.

   The feasible and immediate solutions to some of the above constraints could be: (a) development of a system to ensure faster accessibility and better distribution of RS data at affordable price, (b) increasing awareness and proficiency in using RS and GIS techniques in government and private sectors through proper training and support, and (c) enhancing and updating infrastructure facilities to cope up with latest developments in these technologies. Thus, besides the widespread availability of RS and GIS outputs in digital mode, there is a need to evolve a well-coordinated program in this area with a focus on developing standard methodologies and software as well as training and technology transfer on a wider scale. Also, there is a need to introduce RS and GIS curricula at undergraduate and graduate levels to promote better education and training in these specialized fields. As far as the restrictions of RS data are concerned, in view of liberal distribution and relatively easy accessibility of RS data including the high-resolution data from some developed nations, it would be prudent to remove or relax the security restrictions on the RS data and maps in developing nations, except for very rare cases where national security may be jeopardized (Narayana, 1999). Furthermore, there is an urgent need to develop adequate groundwater-monitoring facilities on a regular and long-term basis throughout the country, and to boost up field investigations in order to ensure effective applications of emerging RS and GIS technologies for the sustainable development and management of vital but shrinking groundwater resources. 

7. Conclusions and recommendations 

  The present paper succinctly highlights remote sensing (RS) and GIS technologies and presents a state-of-the-art review on the application of these two emerging techniques in groundwater hydrology. The detailed reviews presented in this paper indicated that the current applications of RS and GIS techniques in groundwater hydrology are limited to six areas: (i) exploration and assessment of groundwater resources, (ii) selection of artificial recharge sites, (iii) GIS-based subsurface flow and pollution modeling, (iv) groundwaterpollution hazard assessment and protection planning, (v) estimation of natural recharge distribution, and (vi) hydrogeologic data analysis and process monitoring. Although the use of these techniques in groundwater studies has appreciably increased since early nineties, the success rate has been very limited and most applications are still in their infancy. Considerable basic research and developments are indispensable in the future for enhanced and wide-scale applications of these two highly promising and economically viable techniques in groundwater hydrology. More and more RS- and GIS-based applied groundwater research is also required in conjunction with field investigations to effectively exploit the expanding potential of RS and GIS technologies, which will perfect and standardize current applications as well as evolve new approaches and applications in the future. Developing technologies like RS, GPS and GIS are really catalysts for innovative approaches to currently unsolvable water resources problems. The constraints for RS and GIS applications in developing nations must be overcome to reap maximum benefits of these promising technologies.

  Finally, it is concluded that the remote sensing technology has great potential to revolutionize groundwater monitoring and management in the future by providing unique and new data to supplement the conventional field data. Rapidly expanding GIS technology will play a central role in handling the voluminous spatio-temporal data and their effective interpretation, analysis, and presentation, though such applications will raise some new problems. The daunting challenges ahead for the hydrogeologists/hydrologists are to map and/or visualize subsurface flow and transport processes by RS technology, to efficiently interpret RS data as well as to develop cost-effective and non-invasive field-measurement techniques in order to expand groundwater hydrology in new and exciting directions. Such advancements will certainly enable us to develop and manage precious groundwater resources in a real sustainable and environment-friendly way.


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