Deriving three dimensional reservoir bathymetry from multi-satellite datasets

Augusto Getirana, Hahn Chul Jung, Kuo Hsin Tseng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


We evaluate different techniques that rebuild reservoir bathymetry by combining multi-satellite imagery of surface water elevation and extent. Digital elevation models (DEMs) are processed in two distinct ways in order to determine 3-D reservoir bathymetry. They are defined as (a) linear extrapolation and (b) linear interpolation. The first one linearly extrapolates the land slope, defining the bottom as the intersection of all extrapolated lines. The second linearly interpolates the uppermost and lowermost pixels of the reservoir's main river, repeating the process for all other tributaries. A visible bathymetry, resulting from the combination of radar altimetry and water extent masks, can be coupled with the DEM, improving the accuracy of techniques (a) and (b). Envisat- and Altika-based altimetric time series is combined to a Landsat-based water extent database over the 2002–2016 period in order to generate the visible bathymetry, and topography is derived from the 3-arcsec HydroSHEDS DEM. Fourteen 3-D bathymetries derived from the combination of these techniques and datasets, plus the inclusion of upstream and downstream riverbed elevations, are evaluated over Lake Mead. Accuracy is measured using ground observations, and show that metrics improve as a function of added data requirement and processing. Best bathymetry estimates are obtained when the visible bathymetry, linear extrapolation technique and riverbed elevation are combined. Water storage variability is also evaluated and shows that best results are derived from the aforementioned combination. This study contributes to our understanding and representation of reservoir water impoundment impacts on the hydrological cycle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-374
Number of pages9
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • Bathymetry
  • DEM
  • Inland water
  • Lake
  • Landsat
  • Radar altimetry
  • Reservoir


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