Canadian Consulting Engineer

Improving Groundwater Exploration using RADARSAT-1

Tecsult InternationalBusiness Category: InternationalTecsult has developed an innovative application for Canada's RADARSAT-1 imagery. Their approach combines the satellite images of the planet with a ...

October 1, 2000  Canadian Consulting Engineer

Tecsult International

Business Category: International

Tecsult has developed an innovative application for Canada’s RADARSAT-1 imagery. Their approach combines the satellite images of the planet with a geographic information system (GIS) to create a tool that improves the accuracy of finding groundwater sources in developing countries.

Radarsat-1 is Canada’s first earth observation satellite. Equipped with synthetic aperture radar, it is capable of imaging the earth through clouds and darkness. It gives valuable information on the planet’s surface topography that enables experts to identify hydrogeological structures at depth.

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Access to drinking water is an essential premise for any efforts of socio-economic progress in developing countries. Since it requires little or no treatment, groundwater is the most suitable source of drinking water in African countries where the economic conditions are precarious.

A contract with the Radarsat-1 User Development Program of the Canadian Space Agency enabled Tecsult to use the satellite for this application. Tecsult is 100% Canadian-owned and its team used Canadian software to process the images.

Two areas in western Africa were selected for study: one in Mali and the other in neighbouring Burkina Faso. The geology of both regions is bedrock where groundwater resources are limited to faults and fractures. The Radarsat-1 images reveal topographic variations, and from these Tecsult is able to map natural linear features, called lineaments. Lineaments may represent the surface expression of deeper geological structures that are promising sites for water drilling.

The technology aims to reduce unsuccessful well drillings in difficult areas. For instance, approximately 1,000 wells have been drilled in the past five years in a 30,000 square kilometre area of Burkina Faso where Tecsult is working. The project showed that the initial investment for the new technology to cover the area is approximately $225,000 ($225 per well). The material and data produced could easily be updated and used in future projects, which would guarantee a long-term investment in the technology. The results of the drilling would be much more favourable and would greatly increase the number of productive wells found. This would have a direct influence on the quality of life in rural populations.

The methodology involves producing an enhanced Radarsat-1 image, preferably acquired in the dry season. These images are then transferred into a geographic information system for analysis of the lineaments. Thematic and topographic maps, and hydrogeological data are integrated into the GIS. Many maps were produced during the study analysis, such as thematic maps (roads and trails, hydrography, geology, drillholes), iso-value maps (overburden thickness, depth of the water table, lineaments density) and interpretation maps (lineaments location, groundwater resource potential).

A final report presenting lineaments and groundwater potential maps was submitted to three government water resource departments in western Africa showing how the technology improves on current exploration techniques that use aerial photographs. Tecsult has included parts of the methodology in several proposals presented this year in the Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso and Brazil. The company believes the application will improve its competitiveness against European and American firms involved in the groundwater exploration field.CCE

Project name: Optimization of Groundwater Resources Exploration Techniques in Developing Countries Using RADARSAT-1 Canadian Imagery. Completed December 31, 1999 in Burkina Faso and Mali.

Award winner: Tecsult International (prime consultant).

Project team: Stephane Chalifoux, Georges Forest, P.Eng., Hubert Sommelet, Robert Saint-Michel, P.Eng., Martin Stapinsky, Francois Trudeau, Sebastien Boudreau, Sylvie Roy

Client owner: Canadian Space Agency

Other key players: Canada Centre for Remote Sensing (scientific support)

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