2021 Graduate Student Showcase

Title of Submission

Resolving a Human Crisis Through Remote Sensing: Equitable and Sustainable Use of Internationally Shared Water Resources

Degree Program

Computing, PhD


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Major Advisor Name

Mojtaba Sadegh

Type of Submission

Scholarly Poster


The transboundary Helmand river drains 41% of Afghanistan's land to the Hamun lakes on the border of Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. The Hamun lakes have become seasonally dry in the recent decade, leaving >1 million people in desperate life conditions. This not only caused food and water insecurity in the region, but also deprived people of their only source of income driving many to resort to smuggling goods and drugs with global security implications.

This human crisis mainly stems from the absence of in-situ measurements and monitoring systems in the basin that is necessary for developing sustainable water resource management strategies. In this study, we compile monthly time series of factors that impact the Hamun lakes storage using multispectral satellite imagery and global climate data over the past 40 years. Then we unravel the impact of climatic and anthropogenic drivers of the drying of the Hamun lakes by testing various machine learning models. Therefore, we will be able to determine how much the anthropogenic influences such as the expansion in agriculture and the construction of an artificial storage pond downstream affected the drying of the Hamun lakes. Our results will determine the sustainable water resource usage levels in this contentious, transboundary basin.

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