Remote sensing has long been a useful tool in global applications, since it provides physically-based, worldwide, and consistent spatial information. This paper discusses the potential of using these techniques in the research field of water management, particularly for 'Water Footprint' (WF) studies. The WF of a crop is defined as the volume of water consumed for its production, where green and blue WF stand for rain and irrigation water usage, respectively. In this paper evapotranspiration, precipitation, water storage, runoff and land use are identified as key variables to potentially be estimated by remote sensing and used for WF assessment. A mass water balance is proposed to calculate the volume of irrigation applied, and green and blue WF are obtained from the green and blue evapotranspiration components. The source of remote sensing data is described and a simplified example is included, which uses evapotranspiration estimates from the geostationary satellite Meteosat 9 and precipitation estimates obtained with the Climatic Prediction Center Morphing Technique (CMORPH). The combination of data in this approach brings several limitations with respect to discrepancies in spatial and temporal resolution and data availability, which are discussed in detail. This work provides new tools for global WF assessment and represents an innovative approach to glo bal irrigation mapping, enabling the estimation of green and blue water use. © 2010 by the authors; licensee Molecular Diversity Preservation International, Basel, Switzerland.
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