Land Cover Change and Water Quality: How Remote Sensing Can Help Understand Driver–Impact Relations in the Lake Titicaca Basin


The increase of human interventions and developments are modifying the land use/land cover (LULC) of the global landscape, thus severely affecting the water quality of rivers and lakes. Appropriate management and effective policy developments are required to deal with the problems of surface water contamination around the globe. However, spatiotemporal variations of water quality and its complex relation with land cover (LC) changes, challenge adequate water resources management. In this study, we explored the use of remote sensing to relate LC change in the Katari River Basin (KRB) located in the Bolivian Andes and water quality on the shores of Lake Titicaca, in order to support water management. An unsupervised classification of Landsat 7 satellite images and trajectory analysis was applied to understand the modifications of LC through time. In addition, water-quality indicators at the outlet of the basin were retrieved from remote-sensing images and its temporal behavior was analyzed. The results show that the expansion of urban areas is the predominant environmental driver in the KRB, which has great impact on the water quality of Lake Titicaca. We conclude that there is a strong link between the rapid growth of urban and industrial areas with the detriment of river and lake water quality. This case study shows how remote sensing can help understand driver–impact relations.

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