Estimating Irrigation Water Consumption Using Machine Learning and Remote Sensing Data in Kansas High Plains

Shiqi Wei, Tianfang Xu, Guo Yue Niu, Ruijie Zeng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Groundwater-based irrigation has dramatically expanded over the past decades. It has important implications for terrestrial water, energy fluxes, and food production, as well as local to regional climates. However, irrigation water use is hard to monitor at large scales due to various constraints, including the high cost of metering equipment installation and maintenance, privacy issues, and the presence of illegal or unregistered wells. This study estimates irrigation water amounts using machine learning to integrate in situ pumping records, remote sensing products, and climate data in the Kansas High Plains. We use a random forest regression to estimate the annual irrigation water amount at a reprojected spatial resolution of 6 km based on various data, including remotely sensed vegetation indices and evapotranspiration (ET), land cover, near-surface meteorological forcing, and a satellite-derived irrigation map. In addition, we assess the value of ECOSTRESS ET products for irrigation water use estimation and compare with the baseline results by using MODIS ET. The random forest regression model can capture the temporal and spatial variability of irrigation amounts with a satisfactory accuracy (R2 = 0.82). It performs reasonably well when it is calibrated on the western portion of the study area and tested on the eastern portion that receives more rain than the western one, suggesting its potential transferability to other regions. ECSOTRESS ET and MODIS ET yield a similar irrigation estimation accuracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3004
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • irrigation water use
  • random forest
  • spatial prediction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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