In this study, in order to determine the efficiency of estimating annual water pollution loads from remote-sensed land cover classification and ground-observed hydrological data, an empirical model was investigated. Remote sensing data imagery from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer were applied to an 11 year (1994–2004) water quality dataset for 30 different rivers in Japan. Six water quality indicators—total nitrogen (TN), total phosphorus (TP), biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), chemical oxygen demand (COD), and dissolved oxygen (DO)—were examined by using the observed river water quality data and generated land cover map. The TN, TP, BOD, COD, and DO loads were estimated for the 30 river basins using the empirical model. Calibration (1994–1999) and validation (2000–2004) results showed that the proposed simulation technique was useful for predicting water pollution loads in the river basins. We found that vegetation land cover had a larger impact on TP export into all rivers. Urban areas had a very small impact on DO export into rivers, but a relatively large impact on BOD and TN export. The results indicate that the application of land cover data generated from the remote-sensed imagery could give a useful interpretation about the river water quality.
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