Monitoring and flow forecasting system in the Yellow River Basin

2005-2008 Yellow River Basin, China

To support the Yellow River Conservancy Commision, EARS and UNESCO-IHE have developed and implemented a water balance monitoring and flow forecasting system for the Yellow River basin. The system improves predictions of drought, forecasts high water levels, and provides data which enables sustainable water allocation policies in the future.

The Yellow River

The Yellow river is the second largest river in China. The basin is situated across the arid, semi-arid, and sub-humid zones in Northern China. Due to water extraction for industry, agriculture, and residential use, the flow of the Yellow River is strongly reduced during the summer periods, sometimes even drying up completely. On the other hand, precipitation events in the upper basin are responsible for increased flood risk in the lower basin, where a system of levees have caused the river to be elevated above the surrounding land.

About the project

With a growing population and a booming economy, water demand in China has been on the rise. At the same time, water availability is limited and characterized by an uneven geographical and seasonal distribution. A detailed assessment of the water resources in the Yellow River was only carried out every 10 years, and the number measurements and observations on the river course were limited. Spatially distributed data from remote sensing sources was also not used in the management of the river.

About the project

The FY2c geostationary satellite was used to provide input data for the Energy and Water Balance Monitoring System (EWBMS) and Large Scale Hydrological Model (LSHM). The implemented system is capable of:

  • Flow flowcasting in the upper reach of the Yellow river
  • Flow and high water forecasting system for the Weihe tributary
  • Drought monitoring for the entire Yellow river basin

An fieldwork campaign was also initiated to validate the data products. This was done by installing four surface flux measuring systems to validate energy balance components measured using the satellite-based systems.


The project completed by EARS and UNESCO-IHE is an excellent example of an integrated effort using remote sensing data to support river basin management. The integrated system improves predictions of drought and high water levels, and enables rational and sustainable policies for water allocation in the future.