Augmenting a deep-learning algorithm with canal inspection knowledge for reliable water leak detection from multispectral satellite images

Jiawei Chen, Pingbo Tang, Todd Rakstad, Michael Patrick, Xiran Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Maintenance planning of groundwater delivery infrastructure, such as canals, requires labor-intensive field inspection for properly allocating maintenance resources to sections of water infrastructure based on their deterioration conditions. Defective canal sections have cracks where the water delivery performance degrades. In practice, canals can be tens or even hundreds of miles long. Manual canal inspections could take weeks, while could hardly achieve comprehensive water leakage assessment. Another difficulty is that most cracks are developing under the water. Without drying up the canals, inspectors could not observe underwater conditions. They would have to assess visible parts of water facilities and environments (e.g., humidity changes and vegetation growths nearby) for prioritizing canal sections in terms of leaking risks. Even experienced inspectors need much time to complete a reliable canal condition assessment. This paper presents a deep-learning approach augmented by canal inspection knowledge to achieve automated and reliable water leak detection of canal sections from Landsat 8 satellite images. Such integration utilizes the domain knowledge of experienced inspectors in augmenting the deep-learning methods for more reliable image pattern classification that supports rapid canal condition assessment. Compared with machine learning algorithms trained by raw satellite images manually labeled as leaking, domain-knowledge-augmented deep learning algorithms use satellite image augmented by pixel-level land surface temperature (LST), fractional vegetation coverage (FVC) and Temperature Vegetation Dryness Index (TVDI) as training samples. Specifically, LST, FVC, and TVDI for each pixel are physical parameters derived from Landsat 8 satellite images by remote sensing methods. The “leaking” or “no-leaking” labels of the training samples are from the concrete surface inspection records collected during annual dry-ups of the canal from 2016 to 2019. Testing results on data sets collected for canals flowing through both urban and rural areas show that the proposed approach can achieve recall at 86%, precision at 86%, and accuracy at 85%. The precision, recall, and accuracy of the proposed approach are similar to a conventional deep learning algorithm that uses raw images for training while being more computationally efficient. The reason is that the new approach only processes three channels rather than the 11 channels in raw images. The authors also tested how different combinations of environmental features influence the performance of the algorithm. The results showed that two feature combinations: (LST, FVC) and (LST, FVC, TVDI) achieve the most robust performance in diverse geospatial environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101161
JournalAdvanced Engineering Informatics
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Convolutional neural network
  • Deep learning
  • Landsat 8
  • Multispectral satellite image
  • Physics-guided neural network

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Artificial Intelligence


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