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In semiarid regions, thousands of small reservoirs provide the rural population with water, but their storage volumes and hydrological impact are largely unknown. This paper analyzes the suitability of weather-independent radar satellite images for monitoring small reservoir surfaces. The surface areas of three reservoirs were extracted from 21 of 22 ENVISAT Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar scenes, acquired bimonthly from June 2005 to August 2006. The reservoir surface areas were determined with a quasi-manual classification approach, as stringent classification rules often failed due to the spatial and temporal variability of the backscatter from the water. The land-water contrast is critical for the detection of water bodies. Additionally, wind has a significant impact on the classification results and affects the water surface and the backscattered radar signal (Bragg scattering) above a wind speed threshold of 2.6 mmiddots-1. The analysis of 15 months of wind speed data shows that, on 96% of the days, wind speeds were below the Bragg scattering criterion at the time of night time acquisitions, as opposed to 50% during the morning acquisition time. Night time acquisitions are strongly advisable over day time acquisitions due to lower wind interference. Over the year, radar images are most affected by wind during the onset of the rainy season (May and June). We conclude that radar and optical systems are complimentary. Radar is suitable during the rainy season but is affected by wind and lack of vegetation context during the dry season.