Water is Life: Understanding Drought in Northwestern Costa Rica

Category: Monitoring Drought
Project Team: Costa Rica Water Resources
Team Location: University of Georgia – Athens, Georgia

Terra MODIS-based Scaled Drought Condition Index conditions in the Arenal-Tempisque watershed for Feb 2016. Image Credit: Costa Rica Water Resources team

Terra MODIS-based Scaled Drought Condition Index conditions in the Arenal-Tempisque watershed for Feb 2016. Image Credit: Costa Rica Water Resources team

Rachel Durham
María José Rivera-Araya
Diyang Cui
Madison Davis
Luis Quesada
Nelson Venegas

Dr. Marguerite Madden (University of Georgia, Department of Geography)
Dr. Sergio Bernardes (University of Georgia, Department of Geography)
Dr. Adam Milewski (University of Georgia, Department of Geography)
Dr. Angelica Gutierrez (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Past/Other Contributors:
Caren Remillard (Center Lead)


The Arenal-Tempisque watershed in northwestern Costa Rica has experienced severe drought conditions during the last four years, complicating water management and agricultural production. Additional information for response planning and management is required to tackle the consequences of drought. In partnership with the Costa Rica Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE); Costa Rica National Service of Underground Water, Irrigation, and Drainage (SENARA); the University of Costa Rica (UCR); and the Costa Rican Embassy in Washington, D.C.; the DEVELOP team used data from various Earth observing satellites: Landsat 8, Aqua, Terra, Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM), Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), and Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) – as well as in situ stations to analyze and monitor the current state of meteorological and agricultural drought across the Arenal-Tempisque watershed using three calculations. The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) was used in monitoring meteorological drought and the Scaled Drought Condition Index (SDCI) and Soil Moisture Index (SMI) were used in monitoring agricultural drought. The team also created information for a water balance assessment using the Soil Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model by combining NASA Earth observations, ancillary data sources, and in situ data. The model’s results were calibrated and validated through the use of SWAT Calibration and Uncertainty Procedures (SWAT-CUP). Upon receiving the hydrological data and tools, project partners at SENARA and MINAE will be able to replicate the project’s methods to continuously update their understanding of watershed conditions. These results will allow project partners to make a more efficient water management plan, benefitting the local inhabitants and stakeholders.

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Daryl Ann Winstead (Mekong River Basin Agriculture) 18-08-2016, 16:04

Very interesting project! Is there going to be a continuation of the project? Thanks in advance for your response!

Madison Davis 26-08-2016, 14:55

Hi Daryl Ann! A continuation of the project is planned for the Fall 2016 term! Future plans include comparing preliminary findings to in-situ data, performing additional analyses with in-situ data, and using findings to begin the creation of a water budget.


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