Water Resources Modeling of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna River Basins Using Satellite Remote Sensing Data1


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    Paper No. JAWRA-08-0166-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA). Discussions are open until six months from print publication.

  • Editor’s note: This paper is part of the featured series on Satellites and Transboundary Water: Emerging Ideas. See the June 2009 issue for the introduction and background to the series.

(E-Mail/Nishat: bun@iwmbd.org)


Nishat, Bushra and S.M. Mahbubur Rahman, 2009. Water Resources Modeling of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna River Basins Using Satellite Remote Sensing Data. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 45(6):1313-1327.

Abstract:  Large-scale water resources modeling can provide useful insights on future water availability scenarios for downstream nations in anticipation of proposed upstream water resources projects in large international river basins (IRBs). However, model set up can be challenging due to the large amounts of data requirement on both static states (soils, vegetation, topography, drainage network, etc.) and dynamic variables (rainfall, streamflow, soil moisture, evapotranspiration, etc.) over the basin from multiple nations and data collection agencies. Under such circumstances, satellite remote sensing provides a more pragmatic and convenient alternative because of the vantage of space and easy availability from a single data platform. In this paper, we demonstrate a modeling effort to set up a water resources management model, MIKE BASIN, over the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna (GBM) river basins. The model is set up with the objective of providing Bangladesh, the lowermost riparian nation in the GBM basins, a framework for assessing proposed water diversion scenarios in the upstream transboundary regions of India and deriving quantitative impacts on water availability. Using an array of satellite remote sensing data on topography, vegetation, and rainfall from the transboundary regions, we demonstrate that it is possible to calibrate MIKE BASIN to a satisfactory level and predict streamflow in the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers at the entry points of Bangladesh at relevant scales of water resources management. Simulated runoff for the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers follow the trends in the rated discharge for the calibration period. However, monthly flow volume differs from the actual rated flow by (−) 8% to (+) 20% in the Ganges basin, by (−) 15 to (+) 12% in the Brahmaputra basin, and by (−) 15 to (+) 19% in the Meghna basin. Our large-scale modeling initiative is generic enough for other downstream nations in IRBs to adopt for their own modeling needs.