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Satnews Daily
July 18th, 2017

Satellite Delivers Water Data to Pakistani Farmers' Cell Phones

A Pakistani farmer checks his cell phone for weather updates and estimates of how much irrigation water he will need over the next few days.

Photo is courtesy of Faisal Hossain and PCRWR.

An interesting article was filed at the online infosite Learning English by author Alice Bryant that informs readers that Pakistan is only able to store water enough water for as much as 30 days — that is far below the recommended storage amount of 1,000 days.


Mobile phones and satellites are becoming valuable farming tools in Pakistan — now, a new program in that nation uses satellite information to estimate how much water a field requires. The satellite then sends this information via text message to farmers' mobile phones. The program’s aim is to prevent the farmers from over-watering crops. A 2013 report from the Asian Development Bank stated that Pakistan has some of the most severe water problems in the world. The country’s water availability is similar to Syria’s, where a lack of rainfall has intensified civil war.

Several issues have led to Pakistan’s water crisis. They include climate changes, a growing population, local water mismanagement and a greater demand on farmers. Many fear the water crisis could weaken relations between Pakistan and India, as the two countries share the Indus River.

Turning Off the Water
Many older Pakistani farmers received agricultural training several years ago, when water was more readily available. They know the risks that come with under-watering crops. However, using too much water can reduce crop harvests.


The Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources found that rice farmers were using more than three times as much water as they needed to use. The council asked the Sustainability, Satellites, Water, and Environment research group, at the University of Washington, to become involved. The council wanted the research group to use science to help inform the council as to the various irrigation choices.

Pakistan's program started with 700 farmers in the spring of 2016. By January, 10,000 farmers were receiving text messages with a water amount advisory. For example, one message read, "Dear farmer friend, we would like to inform you that the irrigation need for your banana crop was two inches during the past week."

The messages come from a fully-automated system that uses publicly available satellite information as well as uses models to compute how much water each farmer needs to irrigate.

A National Effort
The council plans to expand the program for use across the country and expects millions of farmers to participate, but first, the system must be reviewed.

To read the entire article, please visit this direct link to the Learning English infosite...