UW Aquatic & Fishery Sciences Quantitative Seminar

Matthew Bonnema

PhD Student, Civil and Environmental Engineering, UW

Inferring Reservoir Operating Patterns across the Mekong Basin using only Space Observations


Man-made reservoirs and dams provide tremendous societal benefits in the form of hydropower generation, flood control, irrigation, and water supply. However, by altering river flows and limiting transport of sediments, nutrients, and biota, these dams have ecologically damaging impacts on natural river systems. Understanding how reservoirs are operated is key to elucidating reservoir impacts on hydrologic systems. Unfortunately, in-situ reservoir observations are largely unavailable in developing regions of the world, due to the inability of national agencies for routine observations or the unwillingness of agencies to share the data openly. Such a situation has led many stakeholders to believe that reservoir behavior cannot be elucidated to the level required for making management decisions or long term planning without actual in-situ reservoir monitoring. The only viable alternative is to utilize satellite remote sensing observations. One such developing region facing extensive dam development is the Mekong River Basin (MRB). This talk will discuss how remote sensing data from multiple missions was synthesized to examine the operating patterns of current reservoirs in the MRB. Furthermore, this talk will present a purely satellite based technique for estimating the residence time of these reservoirs and assessing their impact on streamflow. Ultimately, satellite observations can be used to elucidate the spatio-temporal variability of reservoir behavior that is otherwise impossible to derive in ungauged basins of the developing world.

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