National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Date of this Version



Published in Water Resources Management 20 (2006).


Changes in summer irrigated cropland acreage and related water use are estimated from satellite remote sensing and ancillary data in semi-arid Southeastern Turkey where traditionally dry agricultural lands are being rapidly transformed into irrigated fields with the help of water from the Euphrates-Tigris Rivers. An image classification methodology based on thresholding of Landsat NDVI images from the peak summer period reveals that the total area of summer irrigated crops has increased three-fold (from 35,000 ha to over 100,000) in the Harran Plain between 1993 and 2002. Coupled analysis of annual irrigated crop area from remote sensing and potential evapotranspiration based estimates of irrigation water requirements for cotton indicate a corresponding increase in agricultural water use from about 370 million cubic meters to over one billion cubic meters, a volume in accordance with the state estimates. These estimates have important implications for understanding the rapid changes in current agricultural withdrawals in Southeastern Turkey and form a quantitative basis for exploring the changes in future water demands in the region. For example, expansion of irrigated lands have led to a steady decrease in potential evaporation due to increased roughness and decreased humidity deficit in the Harran Plain. Assuming that the changes in future evaporation conditions will be of similar nature, water use for irrigation is expected to decrease over 40 percent in future irrigation sites. Incorporating this decrease in overall planning of the irrigation projects currently under construction should lead to improved management, and by extension, sustainability of water resources in the region.