Airborne remote sensing for detection of irrigation canal leakage Academic Article uri icon


  • Traditional field survey methods for detection of water leaks in irrigation canal systems are costly and time- consuming. In this study, a rapid, cost-effective method was developed for identifying irrigation canal locations likely to have leaks and/or seepage. The method involves the use of a multispectral imager equipped with red, near infrared, and thermal sensors which is mounted on an aircraft and flown at low altitude to collect the images. A three-step process, image acquisition, image processing, and field reconnaissance, was developed for processing the imagery and identification of locations likely to have leaks. The method was evaluated in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, USA. Images were collected of 24 selected canal segments within 11 irrigation districts in this region. Evaluation of the imagery indicated that 140 sites had possible canal leakage problems (point leak and/or seepage). A field site evaluation form was developed and used to document the type and severity of the leaks at 28 of the sites. Twenty-six sites were confirmed to have leaks, representing a success rate of 93%. The methods used in this study should have widespread application for detecting leaks and seepage in irrigation canals. Copyright 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Huang, Y., Fipps, G., Maas, S. J., & Fletcher, R. S.

citation count

  • 19

complete list of authors

  • Huang, Yanbo||Fipps, Guy||Maas, Stephan J||Fletcher, Reginald S

publication date

  • December 2010