Land cover changes around river basins have caused serious environmental degradation in global surface water areas, in which the direct monitoring and numerical modeling is inherently difficult. Prediction of pollutant loads is therefore crucial to river environmental management under the impact of climate change and intensified human activities. This research analyzed the relationship between land cover types estimated from NOAA Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) imagery and the potential annual pollutant loads of river basins in Japan. Then an empirical approach, which estimates annual pollutant loads directly from satellite imagery and hydrological data, was investigated. Six water quality indicators were examined, including total nitrogen (TN), total phosphorus (TP), suspended sediment (SS), Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), and Dissolved Oxygen (DO). The pollutant loads of TN, TP, SS, BOD, COD, and DO were then estimated for 30 river basins in Japan. Results show that the proposed simulation technique can be used to predict the pollutant loads of river basins in Japan. These results may be useful in establishing total maximum annual pollutant loads and developing best management strategies for surface water pollution at river basin scale.

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