Building peace in the minds of men and women

Remote Sensing for Water Resources Management in Africa

International Training Course

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa - January 2019

Introduction and Background

The international training course builds on the momentum and collective experience of several iterations of international training in the application of satellite remote sensing to support water resources management. The first course was held in Foz de Iguazú, Brazil (13-20 July 2016) as well as the second (29 November – 6 December 2017), training more than 140 participants from 20 countries. The preceding courses have focused on Latin America and the Caribbean, but challenges of water management (floods, climate change and water scarcity and drought) in Africa are no less pressing. Whilst some initiatives (e.g. African Flood & Drought Monitor) have step-changed access to remotely sensed data and its application, there is much more work needed in relation to knowledge exchange around the use of remotely sensed data, its use in water resources management and training and capacity development to achieve this. Furthermore, in the recent workshop on ‘Needs assessment for Climate Services for improved Water Resources Management in vulnerable regions of Southern Africa’ held in Harare, Zimbabwe from 30-31 January 2018, training in remote sensing applications for water resource management was acknowledged as a high priority. This proposal is therefore timely and addresses a critical need.

Aims and objectives

The aim of the initiative is to train professionals, water resource managers and staff from government agencies and other organisations in current remote sensing data sources and their application in water resources management, through hands-on training directly relevant to their country and region of interest. The training programme will contribute directly to:

  • Capacity building of early-career professionals in the application of remote sensing data products and information systems for improved water resources management.
  • Training on the available open-source software options for analysis of remotely sensed data.
  • Dissemination of data portals, tools, methods and information systems for using remote sensing data products in data-poor regions of sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Establishing a cross-region network of water professionals with an interest in using remote sensing approached for solving regional water resource management challenges.

The expected outcomes and impacts include:

  • Enhanced regional capacity to address water related hazards and challenges using remote sensing products and information systems
  • Online reference materials, including lectures, tutorials and case studies to support use of remote sensing in management of challenging water resources management
  • A compendium of delegate-driven case studies
  • A growing network of connected professionals who share a common experience of training and subsequent experiences in application of this training  
  • In the longer term, an online repository of webinars and other material on remote sensing for water resources management in Africa

Target audience

Professionals, water resources managers and staff from governmental agencies and institutes, disaster managers, policy makers, providers of space technology applications from governments, academia, research, NGO and corporate sectorworking in Africa. The course is intended as a bridge between beginner and intermediate and applicants should have some basic GIS skills and some experience in water resource management, but not necessarily extensive experience in hydrology. Prior experience of remote sensing would be desirable, but not essential.

Course content

The course is structured as a seven-day course with a field-trip break mid-way.

The datasets used for the exercises in the pilot watersheds can be found here. Instructions to download the data for locations of your own interest can be found here.



Sat  12 Jan

Session 1: Introduction to Remote Sensing I

- Lecture: Fundamentals of Remote Sensing - 45 mins - Nevil Quinn

  [electromagnetic radiation, the sun, earth’s atmosphere, energy budgets, sensors]


Session 2: Introduction to Remote Sensing II

- Lecture: Sensors and Data Interpretation I  - 45 mins - Harry West

[Different sensors and types, RS derived data products, resolution]

- Lecture: Introduction to Digital Elevation Models - 45 mins - Harry West

[DSM/DEMS/DTMS, data collection methods, resolution and accuracy and sources]


Session 3: Digital Elevation Models I

- Practical: Introduction to DEMs - 45 mins - Harry West

[Visualising DEMs, clipping to catchments, basic topographic analysis – slope, aspect and hillshade]

- Practical: DEM Hydrological Analysis I - 45 mins - Harry West

[Fills, flow direction, flow accumulation, stream network derivation]


Session 4: Digital Elevation Models II & Introduction to Multispectral Imagery

- Practical: DEM Hydrological Analysis II - 45 mins - Harry West

[Fills, flow direction, flow accumulation, stream network derivation]

- Lecture: Sensors and Data Interpretation II - 45 mins - Michael Horswell

[History of RS, interpreting images, MS bands]


Session 5: Project Work

Sun 13 Jan

Session 1: Introduction to Landcover Change Analysis I

- Lecture: Landcover Mapping & Change Analysis – 90 mins – Michael Horswell

[Recap RS MS Bands basics, supervised vs unsupervised classifications, pixel vs object-based classification, accuracy assessment]


Session 2: Introduction to Landcover Change Analysis II

- Practical: Supervised Landcover Change Analysis – 90 mins – Harry West

[Creating training samples, supervised maximum likelihood classification, landcover change analysis across two dates]


Session 3: Multispectral Indices I

- Lecture: Multispectral Indices – 45 mins – Michael Horswell

[Basic concepts of MS band combinations and index calculations, NDVI, NDWI, plus other examples]

- Practical: Calculating Basic Multispectral Indices – 45 mins – Harry West

[Calculating NDWI and NDVI, consideration of resolution of input bands and output indices]


Session 4: Multispectral Indices II

- Practical: NDVI Change Analysis – 45 mins – Michael Horswell

[NDVI image difference analysis to show change in vegetation condition across two dates]

- Practical: Convergence of Evidence – 45 mins – Michael Horswell, Harry West & Nevil Quinn

[Bringing together the days learning to show integration of landcover classification and index analysis in environmental management


Session 5: Project Work

Mon 14 Jan

Session 1: Satellite precipitation estimation

- Lecture: The role of hydrological cycle in the climate system: modelling, observations and process studies.  - 45 mins – Phu Nguyen

- Lecture: Introduction to Algorithm Development & Challenges in satellite precipitation estimation - 45 mins – Phu Nguyen


Session 2: G-WADI CHRS iRain – an integrated system for global real-time satellite precipitation observation.

Lecture: Introduction to G-WADI CHRS iRain system - 45 mins – Phu Nguyen

- Practical: Participants use G-WADI CHRS iRain to report real-time rainfall/extreme events over the regions of their interests. - 45 mins – Phu Nguyen


Session 3: G-WADI CHRS RainSphere – an integrated system for global satellite precipitation data and information.

- Lecture: Introduction to G-WADI CHRS RainSphere system - 45 mins – Phu Nguyen

- Practical: Participants use G-WADI CHRS RainSphere to explore rainfall distribution and trends over the regions of their interests. - 45 mins – Phu Nguyen


Session 4: Bias adjustment of PERSIANN-CCS estimates using rain gauge observations.

- Lecture: Bias adjustment of PERSIANN-CCS - 45 mins – Phu Nguyen

- Practical: Participants download PERSIANN-family data products from G-WADI CHRS Data Portal and use MATLAB/ArcGIS/QGIS software to calculate some basic statistics of precipitation over the regions of their interests. - 45 mins – Phu Nguyen


Background papers:


Session 5: Project Work

Tue 15 Jan

Session 1: Agriculture Stress Index System (ASIS) I

- Lecture: ASIS – Roel Van Hoolst

[General introduction to ASIS and the online portal]


Session 2: Agriculture Stress Index System (ASIS) II

- Lecture: ASIS part II – Roel Van Hoolst

- Practical: Working with ASIS – Roel Van Hoolst

[Hands-on exercises using the ASIS online portal. Introduction to the ASIS Toolbox]


Session 3: FAO Water Productivity Open-access portal (WaPOR) I

- Lecture:  WaPOR – Laurent Tits

[Background to WaPOR. General introduction to the database and its use. Setting up access to the database for all participants]


Session 4: FAO Water Productivity Open-access portal (WaPOR) II

- Lecture:  WaPOR part II – Laurent Tits

- Practical: Working with WaPOR – Laurent Tits

[WaPOR database hands-on exercise]



Session 5: Project Work

Wed 16 Jan



Thur 17 Jan

Session 1: Soil Moisture Remote Sensing

- Lecture: Introduction to Soil Moisture remote sensing - 45 mins – Justin Sheffield

[definitions, sensors, retrieval methods, data products and uses, limitations]

- Practical: Working with remote sensing soil moisture data - 45 mins – Justin Sheffield

[Downloading and processing SM data, basic analyses]


Session 2: The African Flood and Drought Monitor

- Lecture: Introduction to AFDM - 45 mins – Justin Sheffield

[Overview, data and methods, products, introduction to the AFDM interface]

- Practical: Working with the AFDM - 45 mins – Justin Sheffield / Vojislav Mitrovic

[navigating the system, selecting datasets, map animations, time series, forecasts, data access and integration with GIS/Excel]


Session 3: Water Balance Application

- Lecture: Introduction to Water Balance applications - 45 mins – Justin Sheffield

[definitions, WB calculations with RS, uncertainties]

- Practical: Estimating the water balance - 45 mins – Justin Sheffield/ Vojislav Mitrovic

[Simple analyses of the water balance, estimating potential recharge, comparing dry and wet years]


Session 4: Drought Analysis

- Lecture: Concepts and methods - 45 mins – Justin Sheffield

[drought terminology, characteristics, indices, drought risk, drought monitoring]

- Practical: Drought analysis with the AFDM - 45 mins – Justin Sheffield / Vojislav Mitrovic

[drought identification, working with multiple data products and indices, estimating impacts on agriculture]

Fri 18 Jan

Session 1: Flood analysis

- Lecture: Concepts and methods - 45 mins – Justin Sheffield

[flood terminology, characteristics, indices, flood risk, flood monitoring]

- Practical: Flood analysis - 45 mins – Justin Sheffield / Vojislav Mitrovic

[flood identification, estimating population impacted]


Session 2: Further Water Resources Applications -

- Practical:  - 45 mins – Justin Sheffield / Vojislav Mitrovic

[ further examples/ applications depending on needs identified]

- Practical:  - 45 mins – Justin Sheffield / Vojislav Mitrovic

[further examples/ applications depending on needs identified] 


Session 3-5:

- Group work: Implementing today’s learning for your case study catchment (or country)

-Group work: Preparing for presentations tomorrow

Sat 19 Jan

Group 1 Presentation and Feedback

Group 2 Presentation and Feedback

Group 3 Presentation and Feedback

Group 4 Presentation and Feedback

Group 5 Presentation and Feedback

Group 6 Presentation and Feedback


Review of the week


Registration process

  • Up to 20 sponsored places are available.
  • Sponsorship will cover accommodation and subsistence at the training and a contribution towards travel costs.
  • Registration is now closed.
  • Selected participants will be informed before the end of November 2018.  



  • University of the West of England, Bristol (UK) - Centre for Water, Communities and Resilience and the International Water Security Network

  • University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

  • Institute of Natural Resources, Pietermaritzburg


  • Institute of Natural Resources, Pietermaritzburg
  • University of Southampton, UK

  • Princeton University, USA

  • Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO), Belgium

  • Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

  • Waternet

  • Water Research Commission, South Africa


With the support of: Flanders Fund-in-Trust (FUST) and the Global Challenges Research FUND (GCRF)