An assessment of groundwater use in irrigated agriculture using multi-spectral remote sensing

Elsevier, Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Volume 115, February 2020
Nhamo L., Ebrahim G.Y., Mabhaudhi T., Mpandeli S., Magombeyi M., Chitakira M. et al.

Declining water resources in dry regions requires sustainable groundwater management as trends indicate increasing groundwater use, but without accountability. The sustainability of groundwater is uncertain, as little is known about its extent and availability, a challenge that requires a quantitative assessment of its current use. This study assessed groundwater use for irrigated agriculture in the Venda-Gazankulu area of Limpopo Province in South Africa using crop evapotranspiration and irrigated crop area derived from the normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI). Evapotranspiration data was derived from the Water Productivity through Open access of Remotely sensed Actual Evapotranspiration and Interception (WaPOR) dataset (250 m resolution), and irrigated areas were characterised using dry season NDVI data derived from Landsat 8. Field surveys were conducted for four years to assess accuracy and for post-classification correction. Daily ET for the dry season (May to September) was developed from the actual ET for the irrigated areas. The irrigated areas were overlaid on the ET map to calculate ET for only irrigated land parcels. Groundwater use during the 2015 dry period was 3627.49 billion m3 and the irrigated area during the same period was 26% of cultivated land. About 82 435 ha of cultivated area was irrigated using 44 million m3/ha of water, compared to 186.93 million m3/ha on a rainfed area of 237 847 ha. Groundwater management is essential for enhancing resilience in arid regions in the advent of water scarcity.