IWMI wins award for innovative space-based drought monitoring work

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI), a UN-SPIDER Regional Support Office, has won an award for its innovative work using remote sensing technology to help nations monitor and mitigate the impacts of drought. The Institute received the GeoSpatial World Excellence Award 2020 in recognition of the positive impact of its South Asia Drought Monitoring System (SADMS). Since IWMI launched SADMS in 2014, the system has guided national, state and district-level authorities in India and Sri Lanka to take timely action to prepare for drought.

The South Asia Drought Monitoring System (SADMS) provides maps of drought conditions that are produced and maintained at IWMI. Numerous drought indices - including the Integrated Drought Severity Index (IDSI), Standardized Precipitation Index, and Soil Moisture Index - have been developed to provide advanced drought monitoring and assessment information. The system has three components: monitoring and forecasting; vulnerability and impact assessment; and mitigation and response planning, through drought contingency plans. 
Space-based information plays an integral part in the system, which uses input data from the MODIS instrument onboard the Aqua and Terra satellite and from the Tropical Rainfall Measuing Mission (TRMM), among others, to calculate the IDSI. The chart below outlines the components and drought monitoring approach of the SADS.
Figure 1: SADS drought monitoring approach. Image: IWMI.

Through the South Asia Drought System, users can explore the sptial condition of ground vegeration throughout the region at the level of specific districts in respective countries and at the level of specific pixels of 0.5 by 0.5 km. The default spatial image shows the distribution of drought condition over a district, sub-district administrative boundaries if any exist and some landmarks, including rivers/canals, roads and or settlements.

In addition, users can also create online time-series graphs of drought-related vegetation characteristics and study the deviation of those from the long-term mean for a district or pixel. The graphs can be built for a time period selected by the user, allowing the developing deficits of vegetation density and vigor to be detected and quantified online. Images of the the calculated drought indices can be downloaded.

In 2018, South Asia suffered a particularly severe drought, which affected 250 million people across an agricultural area of 66.5 million hectares. In India, the SADMS framework was adopted by the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, a national research institute under ICAR, to disseminate drought information at subnational level for contingency planning. In Sri Lanka, the World Food Programme and national partners used the system to produce a climate and food security bulletin.

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is a non-profit, scientific research organization focusing on the sustainable use of water and land resources in developing countries. It is headquartered in Colombo, Sri Lanka, with regional offices across Asia and Africa. IWMI works in partnership with governments, civil society and the private sector to develop scalable agricultural water management solutions that have a real impact on poverty reduction, food security and ecosystem health. IWMI is a member of CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. 

Since joining the network of UN-SPIDER Regional Support Offices in 2015, IWMI has supported the prgroamme in a wide range of activities, with a focus on Asia.