Groundwater Prize

Wolfgang_Kinzelbach Dr. Wolfgang Kinzelbach (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)

Topic: Exploration and Assessment of Groundwater.

Dr. Kinzelbach has developed a new approach to using remote sensing for groundwater modeling.

Using various types of remotely-sensed data, including geophysical data, linked with point surface observations and measurements, spatially widespread data is converted to a usable model input for groundwater modeling.

He has developed large-scale stochastic models to take advantage of the quantified uncertainties of the input data propagating into the model results. The research develops a way to get spacially uniform information from remote sensing that can be used to help groundwater exploration, especially in underdeveloped or remote areas, which can help populations in economically depressed regions to find better groundwater resources.

His work, using three examples in Botswana and one in China, gives a practical demonstration of how hydrologists can maximize the potentials of remote sensing.

Dr. Kinzelbach has made a valuable case study of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, where his research addresses the critical issue of what share of available water resources should be kept for natural ecosystems. The research also explores the changes in the flooded parts of the delta as a function of various developments (dam construction, abstraction for irrigation) that take place in the river upstream from the delta.

To answer these questions, a highly sophisticated coupled hydrologic model was built with a surface layer for flood and runoff simulations, a sub-surface layer representing the aquifer, and a vadose zone simplified coupling layer in between. A considerable amount of remote sensing data was employed for initial parameterization and calibration of the model, in particular 151 satellite images of the extension flood zones between 1972 and 2000.

The model was able to test the influence on the flooded zone distribution of the various development scenarios and provided interesting predictions of the reduction of flooded areas as a function of the abstraction for irrigation in the river upstream.

These results were directly useable by the government of Botswana to be able to make decisions regarding the protection of this particularly important ecosysyem.

This is a remarkable example of hydrological modeling development, simultaneously with the application of Dr. Kinzelbach’s new and complex model to a very large and arid zone, to test the consequences of various development scenarios.

Dr. Kinzelbach’s work has particular relevance to water resource management in the developing world.  

 
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