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WSU geologist uses satellite imagery to study surface water quality within Ohio River watershed

January 06, 2005

A Wright State University research scientist is using satellite imagery to evaluate water quality within the streams and rivers of the Ohio River watershed.

Abinash Agrawal, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, recently received a $20,000 grant from NASA as part of the a $39,000 project that began in late 2003.

"This is a new field of remote sensing that uses satellite pictures to examine land surfaces and land-use patterns within the Ohio River watershed, which includes large portions of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky," explained Agrawal, whose training encompasses geochemistry and environmental engineering. The study includes the urban areas of Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati and Louisville.

Agrawal said the satellite photos are a powerful tool to examine the water quality in streams, lakes and rivers because the area involved totals more than 200,000 square miles. "This would take hundreds of people and cost millions of dollars without the use of this space-age technology," he said.

The Wright State geologist said the goal of the research is "to analyze the cause-and- effect relationship between land use and stream water quality in the watershed. We want to examine how human activity (which includes urbanization, agricultural expansion and deforestation) affects the quality of stream water."

A faculty member since 1995, Agrawal has 15 years of experience in studying wetlands, water quality and groundwater contamination. He became involved in this project during a recent sabbatical research opportunity at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The grant from NASA is through the Ohio Space Grant Consortium.
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Wright State University

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