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Development of the Metropolitan Water Availability Index (MWAI) and short-term assessment with multi-scale remote sensing technologies

Chang, Ni-Bin, Yang, Y. Jeffrey, Goodrich, James A., Daranpob, Ammarin
Journal of environmental management 2010 v.91 no.6 pp. 1397-1413
aircraft, case studies, climate change, decision making, drinking, drinking water, drought, environmental factors, evapotranspiration, hydrologic cycle, infrastructure, planning, radar, remote sensing, rivers, runoff, satellites, sea level, snowmelt, soil water, temperature, water management, water quality, water supply, Florida
Global climate change will influence environmental conditions including temperature, surface radiation, soil moisture, and sea level, and it will also significantly impact regional-scale hydrologic processes such as evapotranspiration (ET), precipitation, runoff, and snowmelt. The quantity and quality of water available for drinking and other domestic usage is also likely to be affected by changes in these processes. Consequently, it is necessary to assess and reflect upon the challenges ahead for water infrastructure and the general public in metropolitan regions. One approach to the problem is to use index-based assessment, forecasting and planning. The drought indices previously developed were not developed for domestic water supplies, and thus are insufficient for the purpose of such an assessment. This paper aims to propose and develop a “Metropolitan Water Availability Index (MWAI)” to assess the status of both the quantity and quality of available potable water sources diverted from the hydrologic cycle in a metropolitan region. In this approach, the accessible water may be expressed as volume per month or week (i.e., m3/month or m3/week) relative to a prescribed historical record, and such a trend analysis may result in final MWAI values ranging from −1 to +1 for regional water management decision making. The MWAI computation uses data and information from both historical point measurements and spatial remote-sensing based monitoring. Variables such as precipitation, river discharge, and water quality changes at drinking water plant intakes at specific locations are past “point” measurements in MWAI calculations. On the other hand, remote sensing provides information on both spatial and temporal distributions of key variables. Examples of remote-sensing images and sensor network technologies are in-situ sensor networks, ground-based radar, air-borne aircraft, and even space-borne satellites. A case study in Tampa Bay, Florida is described to demonstrate the short-term assessment of the MWAI concept at a practical level. It is anticipated that such a forecasting methodology may be extended for middle-term and long-term water supply assessment.