Satellite Remote Sensing for Water Resources Management: Potential for Supporting Sustainable Development in Data-Poor Regions

J. Sheffield, Eric F. Wood, M. Pan, H. Beck, G. Coccia, A. Serrat-Capdevila, K. Verbist

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

244 Scopus citations


Water resources management (WRM) for sustainable development presents many challenges in areas with sparse in situ monitoring networks. The exponential growth of satellite based information over the past decade provides unprecedented opportunities to support and improve WRM. Furthermore, traditional barriers to the access and usage of satellite data are lowering as technological innovations provide opportunities to manage and deliver this wealth of information to a wider audience. We review data needs for WRM and the role that satellite remote sensing can play to fill gaps and enhance WRM, focusing on the Latin American and Caribbean as an example of a region with potential to further develop its resources and mitigate the impacts of hydrological hazards. We review the state-of-the-art for relevant variables, current satellite missions, and products, how they are being used currently by national agencies across the Latin American and Caribbean region, and the challenges to improving their utility. We discuss the potential of recently launched, upcoming, and proposed missions that are likely to further enhance and transform assessment and monitoring of water resources. Ongoing challenges of accuracy, sampling, and continuity still need to be addressed, and further challenges related to the massive amounts of new data need to be overcome to best leverage the utility of satellite based information for improving WRM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9724-9758
Number of pages35
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


  • Latin America and Caribbean
  • data scarcity
  • hazard management
  • satellite remote sensing
  • sustainable development
  • water resources management


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