Articles | Volume 26, issue 9
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 26, 2345–2364, 2022

Special issue: Socio-hydrology and transboundary rivers

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 26, 2345–2364, 2022
Research article
05 May 2022
Research article | 05 May 2022

Satellite observations reveal 13 years of reservoir filling strategies, operating rules, and hydrological alterations in the Upper Mekong River basin

Dung Trung Vu et al.

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Cited articles

Ahmad, S. K., Hossain, F., Holtgrieve, G. W., Pavelsky, T., and Galelli, S.: Predicting the likely thermal impact of current and future dams around the world, Earth's Future, 9, e2020EF001916,, 2021. a
Arias, M. E., Cochrane, T. A., Kummu, M., Lauri, H., Holtgrieve, G. W., Koponen, J., and Piman, T.: Impacts of hydropower and climate change on drivers of ecological productivity of Southeast Asia's most important wetland, Ecol. Model., 272, 252–263,, 2014. a
Avisse, N., Tilmant, A., Müller, M. F., and Zhang, H.: Monitoring small reservoirs' storage with satellite remote sensing in inaccessible areas, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 6445–6459,, 2017. a, b
Basheer, M., Wheeler, K. G., Elagib, N. A., Etichia, M., Zagona, E. A., Abdo, G. M., and Harou, J. J.: Filling Africa’s largest hydropower dam should consider engineering realities, One Earth, 3, 277–281,, 2020. a
Beveridge, C., Hossain, F., and Bonnema, M.: Estimating impacts of dam development and landscape changes on suspended sediment concentrations in the Mekong River Basin’s 3S tributaries, J. Hydrol. Eng., 25, 05020014,, 2020.  a
Short summary
The lack of data on how big dams are operated in the Upper Mekong, or Lancang, largely contributes to the ongoing controversy between China and the other Mekong countries. Here, we rely on satellite observations to reconstruct monthly storage time series for the 10 largest reservoirs in the Lancang. Our analysis shows how quickly reservoirs were filled in, what decisions were made during recent droughts, and how these decisions impacted downstream discharge.