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Cycle 9 (2020 Deadline)

Long-term impacts of land-use/land-cover dynamics on surface water quality in Botswana’s reservoirs using satellite data and artificial intelligence methods: Case study of the Botswana’s Limpopo River Basin (1984-2019)

PI: Yashon Ouma (, University of Botswana
U.S. Partner: Jiaguo Qi, Michigan State University
Project Dates: May 2021 - April 2023

Project Overview:
The rising demand for water, food, and energy due to increasing population continues to create immense pressure on water resources. In particular, water quality around the globe is systematically degrading, primarily due to climate change and agricultural intensification associated with rapid population growth and urbanization. In-depth assessments of the inter-linkages between land–water resources that combine land-use and water quality and availability within the catchment supply chains such as the Limpopo River Basin (LRB) in southern Africa are still lacking.

For water supply, semi-arid Botswana relies on the reservoirs within the Botswana’s LRB. Reservoirs are particularly susceptible to the negative impacts of land-use and land-cover (LULC) activities and runoff because of their complex dynamics, relatively longer water residence times, and their role as an integrating sink for pollutants from their drainage basins. Despite these interrelationships and significance in regional and global economic stability, land and water (L-W) are often treated in “silos”. To understand the complex L-W nexus within the LRB, this study will use data-driven artificial intelligence for quantitative determination of the relationships between LULC change, together with socioeconomic development indicators and climate change, and their impacts on water quality and availability within the basin, both for 1984-2019 and to predict future scenarios (2020-2050). To advance data acquisition for LULC analysis and climate change, the study utilizes optical Earth-observation and meteorological satellite data. To provide near real-time and cost-effective approach for continuous monitoring of reservoir water quality within the basin, the study will develop empirical models for water quality estimation and water quality index mapping using 35-years of in-situ water quality measurements and water spectral observations using drone-borne spectrometer and optical satellite imagery through regression modeling and geospatial methods.

This project addresses the scope of the solicitation by quantifying land change trajectories in an important region in southern Africa, understanding the physical and social causes and impacts of these dynamics on water quality, thereby advancing land change science and water quality dynamics, while providing policy relevant information on governance options. The project speaks to and will contribute towards Botswana's Sustainable Development Goals as mapped in the National Development Plan (NDP11) and Vision 2036 pillars on sustainable development, sustainable environment, and sustainable use of natural resources. The study results will be beneficial to the government policymakers and development partners including the USAID Southern Africa Resilience in Limpopo River Basin (RESILIM) project, the Limpopo Watercourse Commission (LIMCOM), and government ministries, including the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services (MLMWSS). Specifically, the study will contribute to the USAIID-RESILIM and LIMCOM work on the enhancement of the resilience of the people and ecosystems within the water-stressed Limpopo River Basin.

Summary of Recent Events

In this reporting period, the PI reported that the project has obtained dam water quality data from Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) from 2011- 2021 and is seeking additional surface water quality from the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). The first paper on model development and testing for Land-Use and Land-Cover (LULC) change mapping is in the draft form and will be submitted to a suitable journal. Apart from the daily consultations, the project successfully held an elaborate webinar involving the local investigators and the PEER partner on Progress and Strategies going forward.

Project made presentations to the Department of Surveys and Mapping (DSM-Botswana and the Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD-Kenya) for the purpose of data sharing. 

In the next few months, although not in the initial planning, the project has elicited interest and thus plans to organize a regional inception and collaborative workshop in November 2021. With the collected data, developed concepts and preliminary results, the project plans to embark on training and outreach first within the University of Botswana, then roll out to Government departments and all interested stakeholders. The project team also aims to participate in one conference and submit a paper to journal. Finally, once the UAV drone is delivered, the project will embark, in the next 3-4 months, on dam water mapping using the multispectral drone imaging system.

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