The severity of California’s drought is visible at Folsom Lake, near Sacramento. NASA and California are collaborating to use NASA Earth observation assets to manage and respond to the drought. Image © California Department of Water Resources
On July 20, 2011, the lake was at 97 percent of capacity; on Jan. 16, 2014, it was at 17 percent.
NASA is partnering with the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to develop and apply new technology and products to better manage and monitor the state’s water resources and respond to its ongoing drought.
NASA scientists, DWR water managers, university researchers and other state resource management agencies will collaborate to apply advanced remote sensing and improved forecast modeling to better assess water resources, monitor drought conditions and water supplies, plan for drought response and mitigation, and measure drought impacts.
“Over the past two decades, NASA has developed capabilities to measure and provide useful information for all components of Earth’s freshwater resources worldwide,” said Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington. “Working with partners like DWR, we are leveraging NASA’s unique Earth monitoring tools and science expertise to help managers address the state’s water management challenges.”
In January, Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. declared a drought state of emergency and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages as 2014 shapes up to be one of the driest years on record in California.
NASA and DWR began exploring opportunities to apply remote sensing data and research to the process of water resource management through a partnership established with funding from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Ongoing collaborations include monitoring California delta levees; mapping fallowed agricultural lands; and improving estimates of precipitation, water stored in winter snowpack, and changes in groundwater resources. The agencies also are working to combine data from NASA satellites and DWR’s network of agricultural weather stations to improve estimates of crop water requirements for California farmers seeking to better manage irrigation.
“We value the partnership with NASA and the ability of their remote sensing resources to integrate data over large spatial scales, which is useful for assessing drought impacts,” said Jeanine Jones, Interstate Water Resources Manager, DWR, Sacramento, Calif. “Early detection of land subsidence hot spots, for example, can help forestall long-term damage to water supply and flood control infrastructure.”
In April, NASA and DWR will resume flights of NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory to map the snowpack of the Tuolumne River Basin in the Sierra Nevada and the Uncompahgre watershed in the Upper Colorado River Basin. The Tuolumne watershed is the primary water supply for 2.6 million San Francisco Bay Area residents.
Subsidence (sinking) rates in California’s southern Central Valley from 2007 to 2011 as measured by Japan’s Advanced Land Observing Satellite. One full cycle of the color bar equals 20 centimeters (about 8 inches) per year. NASA is using space-based radar data to monitor groundwater in California. Image © ASA/JPL-Caltech/JAXA/Google Earth
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