Assessing groundwater depletion and dynamics using GRACE and InSAR: Potential and limitations

By: , and 



In the last decade, remote sensing of the temporal variation of ground level and gravity has improved our understanding of groundwater dynamics and storage. Mass changes are measured by GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellites, whereas ground deformation is measured by processing synthetic aperture radar satellites data using the InSAR (Interferometry of Synthetic Aperture Radar) techniques. Both methods are complementary and offer different sensitivities to aquifer system processes. GRACE is sensitive to mass changes over large spatial scales (more than 100,000 km2). As such, it fails in providing groundwater storage change estimates at local or regional scales relevant to most aquifer systems, and at which most groundwater management schemes are applied. However, InSAR measures ground displacement due to aquifer response to fluid-pressure changes. InSAR applications to groundwater depletion assessments are limited to aquifer systems susceptible to measurable deformation. Furthermore, the inversion of InSAR-derived displacement maps into volume of depleted groundwater storage (both reversible and largely irreversible) is confounded by vertical and horizontal variability of sediment compressibility. During the last decade, both techniques have shown increasing interest in the scientific community to complement available in situ observations where they are insufficient. In this review, we present the theoretical and conceptual bases of each method, and present idealized scenarios to highlight the potential benefits and challenges of combining these techniques to remotely assess groundwater storage changes and other aspects of the dynamics of aquifer systems.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Assessing groundwater depletion and dynamics using GRACE and InSAR: Potential and limitations
Series title Groundwater
DOI 10.1111/gwat.12453
Volume 54
Issue 6
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Office of the Chief Scientist for Water, Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Water Science Center
Description 13 p.
First page 768
Last page 780
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