Official Government Website

Landsat Thermal Band

Importance of Landsat for Water Resources in Idaho

Landsat 8 was launched on February 11, 2013, and it included the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS). The TIRS is important for computing and mapping evapotranspiration (ET) or water consumption. IDWR is currently using data from Landsat 8 and is still using data from Landsat 7 which was launched in 1999 and has fuel to last until 2020. NASA and the USGS started working on Landsat 9 with a planned launch in 2020.

Landsat 8, Courtesy of NASA

The first Landsat satellite was launched in 1972, and in 1975 Idaho became one of the earliest users of Landsat. Landsat was used in the Snake River Basin Adjudication to develop irrigated land use maps and it has been used on an annual basis to monitor water rights in the Snake River Basin and other irrigated areas in Idaho. Landsat data is being used in the Comprehensive Reserve Enhancement Program to confirm the eligibility of lands for the program. Landsat is regularly used to develop maps of irrigated land that support groundwater models. IDWR relies on Landsat for these programs because it is an operational satellite providing imagery with resolution that allows observation and interpretation of individual fields, and it has a large archive for historical analysis.

IDWR began using Landsat for mapping ET in 2000. Landsat is the only operational satellite that provides high resolution images (30 meter by 30 meter pixel size) that can be used to compute and map ET for individual agricultural fields. This Landsat-based ET data is incorporated into water budgets that support hydrologic models and into water supply predictions for upcoming irrigation seasons. Water planners have used Landsat-based ET data for endangered species programs and for long-term supply and demand analyses. IDWR is frequently involved in legal proceedings related to the supply available to senior water right holders, and in a recent case, Landsat-based ET data were used to show water use information as a “legal finding of fact.” In 2009, Idaho won the Innovations in American Government Award for its use of Landsat-based ET data for water administration.

IDWR has used Landsat data for over 30 years to help administer and manage Idaho’s water resources. The 3.4 million acres of irrigated agriculture in Idaho accounts for over 98% of the water consumed. Landsat will continue to be important for Idaho because it is the only operational satellite that provides the detailed data, including a thermal sensor, necessary for water administration at the field level.

Historical Files

DateDocumentAuthorDescription
February 23, 2009Explanatory Statement Submitted by Mr. Obey, Chairman on the House Committee on Appropriations, Regarding H.R. 1105, Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009Rep. David R. Obey, Chairman, Committee on Appropriations U.S. House of RepresentativesDirection for NASA to spend $10 million on the development of a Thermal infrared sensor for the Landsat Data Continuity Mission
February 12, 2009Letter to Senator Harry ReidRichard Felling, Chief Hydrology Section Nevada Division of Water ResourcesRequest that NASA's budget be augmented in order to assure the continuity of Landsat thermal data
December 15, 2008Letter to Senator Harry ReidAllen Biaggi, State Engineer of NevadaRequest that NASA's budget be augmented in order to assure the continuity of Landsat thermal data
October 15, 2008Section 205 of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Act of 2008H.R. 6063Public Law directing NASA to plan for thermal data continuity on Landsat
May 5, 2008Letter to Senators Byrd, Cochran, Mikulski, and Shelby12 United States SenatorsLetter signed by 12 U.S. Senators requesting $35 million be added to NASA's FY08 budget for a thermal sensor on LDCM
January 27, 2008Letter to Senator Mark UdallHarris D. Sherman, Executive Director, Colorado Dept. of Natural ResourcesRequest that NASA's budget be augmented in order to assure the continuity of Landsat thermal data
June 14, 2007Letter to Support Landsat: A Critical Tool for Water Resource ManagementSenator Ken Salazar (D - Colorado), Senator Mike Crapo (R - Idaho)Letter signed by 9 U.S. Senators requesting $35 million be added to NASA's FY08 budget for a thermal sensor on LDCM
May 2, 2007Letter to Senator Mikulski, Senator Stevens, Representative Mollohan, and Representative FrelinghuysenM. Michael Rounds, Governor of SD; Dave Freudenthal, Governor of WYLetter expressing the support of the Western Governors' Association for issues including thermal band on the Landsat Data Continuity Mission
April 19, 2007Precious Resources: Water and Landsat's Thermal BandUnknownArticle explaining the problem solved by Landsat's Thermal Band
March 2007Annotated Bibliography - Landsat Thermal BandRick Allen, Martha AndersonAnnotated bibliography of peer-reviewed literature on Landsat-derived evapotranspiration and energy balance
February 2, 2007Letter to Senator Harry ReidTracy Taylor, Nevada State EngineerLetter requesting funding for a Landsat thermal band
January 23, 2007Letter to Dr. Michael Griffin, NASA Administrator; Dr. Mark Myers, Director of the USGSLandsat Data Continuity Mission Science TeamUnanimous recommendation for inclusion of thermal instrument on the Landsat Data Continuity Mission
January 18, 2007Letter to Senator Larry Craig and

Letter to Senator Mike Crapo
Eastern Snake Hydrologic Modeling CommitteeLetters asking that funds be appropriated to pay for a thermal imager on the Landsat Data Continuity Mission
September 14, 2006Letter to Panels of the Decadal Survey of the National Research CouncilMartha Anderson, Richard G. Allen, et al.Letter with 117 co-signers explaining the need for a Landsat thermal band
September 13, 2006Letter to Panels of the National Research Council Decadal SurveyDuane A. Smith Chairman, Western States Water CouncilLetter supporting a thermal band on the Landsat Data Continuity Mission
September 12, 2006Letter from the Western Governors' Association to Dr. John H. Marburger, Director of the Office of Science and Technology PolicyM. Michael Rounds, Governor of SD; Dave Freudenthal, Governor of WYLetter expressing the support of the Western Governors' Association for a thermal band on the Landsat Data Continuity Mission
September 2006NASA Earth Science Questions Addressed by High-Resolution Spaceborne Thermal Infrared DataDale QuattrochiDiscussion of how Landsat thermal data apply to 7 of NASA's 23 Earth Science Questions
August 11, 2006Letter from the Wyoming State Engineer to the White House Office of Science and Technology PolicyPatrick J. TyrrellLetter explaining State of Wyoming's support for Landsat thermal band
August 2006Critical Need for a Landsat Thermal BandRichard G. AllenDetailed justification for thermal imager aboard Landsat
June 2006Water Needs and Strategies for a Sustainable FutureWestern Governors' AssociationLandsat thermal data are specifically identified in Recommendation 2A
February 28, 2006Letter to Senator Michael CrapoRichard G. AllenOn the importance of Landsat thermal data to Idaho
February 27, 2006Letter from the Director of Idaho Department of Water Resources Re: Landsat Data Continuity MissionKarl J. Dreher - Director, IDWRLetter to NASA requesting thermal imager aboard LDCM
December 23, 2005Landsat Data Continuity Strategy AdjustmentWhite House Office of Science and Technology PolicyAnnouncement for a free-flying Landsat
November 11, 2005Water and Food Satellite System A resolution supporting a fleet of food and water security satellites having TIR
March 24, 2003Progress in utilizing space borne high resolution thermal radiometer in water resources research and managementWim BastiaanssenEuropean use of Landsat thermal data
1992United States Code Title 15, chapter 82United States GovernmentU.S. Land Remote Sensing Policy
ver: 3.0.0a | last updated:
Jump back to top of page button