Eyes on Earth Episode 39 – Brazil’s Water Use

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Detailed Description

Brazil is a fascinating study in water use. Brazil uses roughly 72 percent of its water for irrigated agriculture, and its herds of cattle, pigs and poultry are among the largest in the world. Water management teams from that country’s National Water Agency have worked in recent years with researchers from the USGS EROS Center to learn how to map, and therefore more effectively manage, the South American country’s water resources. On this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear from the Brazilian water experts and one of their collaborators at EROS.

Details

Episode Number: 39

Date Taken:

Length: 00:12:29

Location Taken: Sioux Falls, SD, US

Credits

Guests: Sérgio Ayrimoraes and Thiago Fontenelle, Brazilian National Water Agency; Mac Freidrichs, Contractor, USGS EROS

Host: Steve Young
 

Transcript

Hello everyone. Welcome to this episode of Eyes on Earth. Our podcast focuses on our ever-changing planet, and on the people here at EROS and across the globe who use remote sensing to monitor and study the health of Earth. I'm your host, Steve Young.
Landsat is a valuable tool that the USGS manages for the benefit of Federal agencies across our Nation that are involved in land use and land cover change issues. But Landsat's value is appreciated well beyond America's borders. 
Here's a good example of that. Brazil uses roughly 70 percent of the water consumed in the world today, and its herds of cattle, pigs and poultry are among the largest in the world.
Four years ago, members of the Brazilian National Water Agency, or ANA, began working with staff from the USGS and EROS to learn how remote sensing can be used to map Brazil's irrigated agricultural lands, and how it can help to monitor and measure water used to raise crops there, too.
Here to talk about that are SÈrgio Ayrimoraes (Ah REE moh RYE-es) and Thiago (Chee-AH-go) Fontenelle from ANA. Welcome.
AYRIMORAES: 
Thanks for the invitation and the introduction about our agency.
FONTENELLE: 
Thanks Steven for the invitation, too.
YOUNG: 
Also joining us is Mac Friedrichs. Mac is a contractor to the USGS and a lead technical developer He uses Google Earth Engine to support Research Physical Scientist Gabriel Senay's evapotranspiration (ET) project at EROS. Mac has worked extensively with Sergio and Fontenelle on how to use Senay's Operational Simplified Surface Energy Balance product, or SSEBop for short, to measure and monitor water use in Brazil. Good to have you, Mac.
FRIEDRICHS: 
Hey Steve, thanks for having me.                               
YOUNG: 
So Sergio, talk about the role ANA plays in monitoring agricultural and other water uses in Brazil.
AYRIMORAES: 
As you know in Brazil, we have a National Water Resources Management System, and ANA, the Brazilian National Water Agency, is the institution responsible for coordinating this system. To better understand the use of water in irrigation for planning purposes, to guide the decision-making process in Brazil, is the technical basis of our partnership with the USGS and EROS team.
YOUNG: 
Brazil's semi-arid landscapes have faced a history of drought over the last four, five, six years. The metropolitan area of Sao Paulo and the Federal district face water supply problems. Today, the south part of the country is experiencing water resource issues, too. Sergio, are Brazil's problems strictly related to drought?
AYRIMORAES: 
All these cases have the lack of rain in common. This hydrological aspect is not the only factor that explains the water crisis. The growth in water use, long institutional procrastination, the lack of investments in water and sanitation ... in those situations, the regions were already at the limit of the balance between water supply and water demand.
YOUNG: 
FRIEDRICHS, we should educate our listeners a little bit on how remote sensing can monitor and measure water consumption. The SSEBop model uses remotes sensing, weather and climate data to track water available and consumption based on evaporation from the soil and transpiration from plants. How is that helpful in Brazil?
FRIEDRICHS: 
Brazil is a large country, and they need remote sensing-based technology to improve their water use assessment and water management decisions, just like we do in the United States. And ET is a large part of the water budget. As the national water agency in Brazil, water accounting information and monitoring at various ranges and scales is a really important component of their work. And the SSEBop model ET data fits that need and has enabled new kinds of reporting and decision making that they can apply in many real-world applications.
YOUNG: 
I understand the Brazilians heard your group present to the USGS Water Census group in Atlanta in 2016 and asked you to partner with them on ET modeling and mapping irrigation in Brazil. What specific assistance did they want?
FRIEDRICHS: 
Going into this, we knew that this was going to be a mutually beneficial partnership. They are incredibly talented experts already in hydrology and geospatial information. And so really, the goals were centered around capacity building and remote-sensing ET, specifically. Within the USGS, we developed and operate what's called the Simplified Surface Energy Balance model. That uses land surface temperature from satellites, both Landsat and MODIS, to quantify the amount of water used by the land surface at field levels up to regional and national scales. So, sharing this type of information and working with the team in Brazil was aimed to facilitate robust modeling capabilities on their end. And it's led to expanded opportunities for collaboration and mapping irrigation and water use.
YOUNG: 
Thiago, can you tell me how working with the EROS team and using the SSEBop model has been an asset to Brazil?
FONTENELLE: 
Yeah, I can say it's a successful partnership. Gabriel and the USGS team helped us from the basics on energy balance and evapotranspiration physics to modeling the variables and tools that we have nowadays. So this way, it has been a full training for us because we are not exactly scientists or researchers. We are water experts implementing the national water policy. So, the USGS support has been very valuable for us. Remote sensing is valuable in a big and diverse country as Brazil. Nowadays, once a Landsat remote image is available, we can estimate irrigated areas in the areas we monitor in Brazil. So, this is amazing for us. It's a long way from where we were some years ago.
YOUNG: 
Flooded rice is the biggest irrigated crop in Brazil, about 1.3 million hectares. There are 1.5 million acres of soybean, bean, corn, wheat, and cotton under 1.5 million hectares of center pivot irrigation. How has EROS helped you to monitor and map those areas, Thiago?
FONTENELLE: 
We developed the SSEBop BR ... it's, as we call it, SSEBop parameterized for Brazilian Realit. And it has been applied to compare data from water rights to the actual values informed by users. But, it has been also applied to identify irrigated areas. Very useful for planning purposes.
YOUNG: 
Mac, how much training have you had to do to enable the use of SSEBop and other tools by the Brazilians?
FRIEDRICHS: 
Yeah, so that was mainly centered around ET modeling with the SSEBop model, but also introductions to cloud-computing tools and technologies for advancing large-scale science computing capabilities and interconnectivity. And we were working largely within the globally accessible Google Earth Engine platform environment. Most of this was comprised of a series of technical exchanges, webinar discussions, and various collaborative workshops, both here in the U.S. and also in Brazil. And recently, this type of work has expanded based on various shared goals and some engineering of web-mapping applications for using these water science products.
YOUNG: 
Do you get a sense, Mac, that the training and tools are making a difference in Brazil?
FRIEDRICHS: 
Yeah, I think they're pleased with the outcomes so far, and they want to continue. They've also invested a lot with local agencies within their country, one of them named AgriSatellite, who has been very beneficial for expanding even more applications with the cloud-computing side of things. And also, various universities, including the Ministry of Ag, are taking advantage of our training and partnerships. 
YOUNG: 
It sounds like other parts of the Brazilian public and private sectors are benefitting from this partnership between ANA and USGS EROS. Is that right Mac?
FONTENELLE: 
There are nowadays a bigger group working with SSEBop than five years ago. And I think ANA helped in this process once we make ... our results and tools broadly available on the Internet. So, it helps other stakeholders in Brazil, and we also invited other institutions and stakeholders for the two trainings we had in Brazil with Gabriel's team and USGS. These also help spread interest in evapotranspiration modeling in Brazil.
YOUNG:
Sergio, is this work that you're doing getting noticed by the public and the media in your country?
AYRIMORAES: 
That's an important question. Yes. The communication work on our water use ...  especially on irrigation, has been done frequently. The results are very well received, both by the specialized sector, and by society in general. And it's important, because historically, our water resource management system has focused on the urban use, the water supplied for the cities. We currently have almost 8 million hectares under irrigation, and this number can be twice, three times bigger. The potential is huge.
YOUNG: 
You would call this partnership then quite successful, Thiago?
FONTENELLE: 
This specific work with evapotranspiration wouldn't be possible without USGS support and training. So, it's really, it's really amazing for us.
YOUNG: 
And Sergio, would you agree?
AYRIMORAES: 
Ah, definitely, definitely. We are very happy with the results achieved. The effort of development and implementation of the SSEBop model for the Brazilian Realit really has shown excellent results, especially when compared with field data and water balance estimates in our irrigated areas. And the availability of these results through the National Territory fulfills the role of providing general access to the public and transparency. We are very happy with the results, but in a particular way, with the friendship and also, of course, with the partnership.
YOUNG: 
If USGS EROS' work in places like Brazil has been so successful, it would seem like we might be useful to people and agencies in other countries around the globe. Is that the case, FRIEDRICHS? 
FRIEDRICHS: 
Yeah, so, there are groups that use the SSEBop product in places like Africa through the FEWS NET program, the Famine and Early Warning Systems Network. And there are also students and researchers applying SSEBop for local applications as we've seen in some papers in China and India, including big projects such as global water accounting by researchers in the Netherlands.
ME: 
As your team works with countries like Brazil and the others, what do you learn from those experiences that help you improve SSEBop?
FRIEDRICHS: 
Yeah, so it's very much been learning experiences where we can learn where the model works well, and where it doesn't. A lot of it is tied to the quality of the input datasets in different countries and finding different sources of information to apply within the model. And we improve our work. Using those improved datasets, we can make better model assumptions and improve the parameters to handle regional differences in various hydroclimatic conditions.
YOUNG: 
We've been talking today to SÈrgio Ayrimoraes (Ah ree moh rye-es) and FONTENELLE (Chee-ah-go) Fontenelle of the Brazilian National Water Agency about how their work with USGS and EROS helps them to better understand how water is being consumed in their country. Thanks for joining us.
AYRIMORAES: 
Thank you, it was a pleasure.
FONTENELLE: 
Thank you
We also appreciation the insights today from Mac Friedrichs, who works with Research Physical Scientist Gabriel Senay's evapotranspiration project at USGS EROS. Thanks for your participation, Mac.
FRIEDRICHS: 
Thanks again for having me.
We hope you come back for the next episode of Eyes on Earth. This podcast is a product of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior. Thanks for joining us.