A Thermal Remote Sensing Tool for Mapping Spring and Diffuse Groundwater Discharge to Streams

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Contract Period:

7/1/2007 - 6/30/2009

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  • Steven Loheide, UW-Madison

Background/Need: Science-based management is essential to developing sustainable use of Wisconsin’s water resources. Wisconsin is progressive nationally in water resources policy; WI Act 310 (2003), a groundwater quantity protection law, is one of the first pieces of legislation to recognize the interaction of groundwater and surface water. However, surface water/groundwater interactions have a high degree of spatial variability with groundwater entering streams both as focused discharge from springs and diffuse seepage through the streambed/banks. Unfortunately, there are few available methods for mapping groundwater discharge to streams at either small or large scales, making administration of WI Act 310 difficult. Because the differing thermal signatures of groundwater and surfaces water, thermal remote sensing offers a potential method for addressing this data need.

Objectives: The purpose of this research is to investigate the use of thermal remote sensing for water resources science and policy in WI. The objectives of this project are to demonstrate that remote sensing may be used to: (1) map the water table position and groundwater discharge at the seepage face, (2) acquire ultra-high resolution imagery of stream temperature for mapping both springs and diffuse groundwater discharge to streams, (3) validate stream temperature models used to predict the suitability of a streams thermal regime for supporting fisheries, and (4) assist the State of Wisconsin in implementing WI Act 310 to promote sustainable use of groundwater and protect spring resources.

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