Satellite images of rivers reveal humanity’s abusive relationship with the world’s most precious resource

mississippi river satellite space 2018 04 deimos imaging

Rivers are veins that nourish human civilization. They fill our glasses with drinking water, irrigate our fields, nurture our livestock, and generate electricity.

But our reliance on these crucial waterways is rarely harmonious.

“I think rivers are treated as a renewable resource when they’re really not,” John Bolten, a hydrologist and the associate program manager of water resources at NASA’s Applied Sciences Program, told Business Insider. “It’s remarkable how many people are dependent on access to clean water. If rivers are not conserved and used properly, it’s a detriment to everyone.”

That’s well worth considering on World Rivers Day, held annually at the end of September.

To keep an eye on the planet and its most precious resource, Bolten and other researchers study image data from advanced satellites that orbit Earth.

“Using satellite observations, we’re able to have a regional perspective, and to have a global perspective, on water,” Bolten said. He added that — thanks to decades’ worth of observations — those perspectives also span across time.

Here are some of the most telling satellite images of rivers (which we sourced primarily from NASA Earth Observatory) and what they reveal about our close and often contentious relationship with vital waterways.

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North Carolina is still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Here’s the Trent River, near Trenton, in July 2017 — long before the catastrophic storm dumped eight trillion gallons of water on the state.

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

All of that water had to go somewhere. By September 17, 2018, the Trent River crested at nearly 30 feet — double the height where floods for the river begin. Nearby farms, homes, and businesses were inundated, as this picture from September 19 shows.

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Flood waters emptied into the Atlantic Ocean, carrying with them leaves, roots, bark, trash, and other detritus .

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

See the rest of the story at Business Insider