Estimating Crop Water Use via Remote Sensing Techniques vs. Conventional Methods in the South Platte River Basin, Colorado


  • Paper No. JAWRA-12-0117-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA).
  • Discussions are open until six months from print publication.


We compared two methods of estimating crop water consumption to assess whether remote sensing techniques provide consumptive use (CU) estimates commensurate with conventional methods. Using available historical satellite and meteorological data, we applied Mapping EvapoTranspiration at high Resolution using Internalized Calibration (METRIC) to 317,455 ha in the South Platte basin, in northeastern Colorado, for the 2001 irrigation season. We then compared these derived CU estimates with values calculated by using the Colorado Water Conservation Board's South Platte Decision Support System StateCU model. Evaluating the data by irrigation ditch service area, we disaggregated the output to allow for comparison by service area size, crop type, irrigation method, water supply source, and water availability. We concluded that METRIC is a suitable alternative to StateCU in the South Platte basin and could help to identify areas with inhibited crop growth or deficit irrigation practices. In addition, METRIC could be used as a complement to StateCU to refine StateCU model parameters, allowing for more accurate estimates of crop water shortages and groundwater recharge associated with irrigation delivery and application.