graphic from Reservoir Assessment Tool website, image of magnifying glass held over a chart.

Mobilizing the Global Water Management Community for Reservoir Monitoring

The Reservoir Assessment Tool (RAT) is a scalable and open source tool for satellite-based monitoring of reservoirs. The objective of RAT tool is to mobilize and empower communities around the world that need to make decisions based on surface water availability that is being increasingly regulated by upstream reservoirs. In today’s world almost all rivers are regulated by reservoirs and most communities living by the river depend on surface water that is controlled by dams and reservoirs. RAT provides real time update as well as historical operation of reservoirs in terms of how much water is being stored or released downstream. Such information helps communities be better prepared, make better decisions that are tied to livelihood matters.

For example, in the Mekong delta in Vietnam and in the region around Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia, RAT provides an understanding of when to expect the land to remain dry or inundated during rice cultivation seasons due to monsoon rains or upstream dam release (see Figure 1). This output from RAT helps farmers make decision on rice planting dates or explore switching to aquaculture. RAT can be coupled with flood inundation tools to predict agricultural flood damage due to planned dams upstream and the expected loss in income by farmers. Such damage assessment scenarios can empower local communities to voice their concerns against plans for new dams, build downstream adaptation plans, encourage dam operation to be revised to minimize such damage to community livelihood. In Iraq, RAT provides predictions of water availability in Tigris river that allows communities to find appropriate and alternative sources for freshwater. This also helps local communities better manage wastewater that is typically discharged without much treatment.

In the Columbia River basin, tribal communities can use the water temperature predictions with reservoir release provided by RAT (both from the same tool) to explore fish abundance in confluence zones. When temperatures are found to be too high, as estimated by satellites, local tribal communities can make the case for dam authorities, such as Bonneville Power to release more water to maintain eco-friendly aquatic habitat at critical locations of the Columbia river system.

RAT uses 100% publicly available data and can be installed with relative ease in user’s local environment by following detailed instructions.



Faisal Hossain

[email protected]


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Figure 1