“The Syrian civil war and subsequent refugee migration caused sudden changes in the area’s land use and freshwater resources, according to satellite data analyzed by Stanford researchers.
The findings, published in the Dec. 5 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are the first to demonstrate detailed water management practices in an active war zone. Using satellite imagery processed in Google Earth Engine, Stanford researchers determined the conflict in Syria caused agricultural irrigation and reservoir storage to decrease by nearly 50 percent compared to prewar conditions.
“The water management practices in Syria have changed and that’s visible from space,” said study co-author and principal investigator Steven Gorelick, the Cyrus Fisher Tolman Professor in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. “The Syrian crisis has resulted in a reduction in agricultural land in southern Syria, a decline in Syrian demand for irrigation water and a dramatic change in the way the Syrians manage their reservoirs.”