irrigated lands

OpenET Project Seeks to Transform Water Management in the West

Brian German Agri-Business, Water

The OpenET project is a collaboration between the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Desert Research Institute (DRI), and Google. The project is centered on providing a new web application to farmers and water managers for better water management decisions. Using data from satellites and weather stations, OpenET will allow for more accurate tracking of water consumption by plants.

OpenET project
Example of OpenET platform.
COURTESY: Environmental Defense Fund

“OpenET is developing a web application and data system to provide accurate, consistent, reliable information on evapotranspiration on the scale of individual fields for the western U.S. and to make this information widely available and easily accessible,” said Forrest Melton, program scientist for the NASA Western Water Applications Office. “The project has taken a user-driven design approach from the very beginning. The system and application have been developed with input from over a hundred agricultural producers and water managers from across the West.”

The OpenET project uses publicly available data to make methods for evapotranspiration estimations more accessible for a broader audience.  Currently, timely satellite-based data related to water use is fragmented and not cost-effective for many producers. More accurate information on water usage will not only benefit farmers and ranchers, but it will also assist entire communities in addressing water issues.

OpenET project
Example of OpenET platform.
COURTESY: Environmental Defense Fund

“OpenET can be integrated into farm and ranch management software that helps growers match irrigation to crop water requirements and can help them save money on pumping costs, fertilizer, and other inputs,” said Robyn Grimm, EDF Senior Manager for Water Information Systems. “OpenET provides a means for highlighting successes in water conservation and correlated to that, a way for communities to come together in accessing the more cost-effective ways to reach whatever water conservation goals they may have.”

Field-scale ET data will be available for 17 states through the OpenET project, with an expectation of expanding the project throughout the United States. As the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act has established guidelines for groundwater budgeting, the OpenET tool will provide critical information that can assist with balancing groundwater supplies. The OpenET application is expected to be available to the public sometime in 2021.

About the Author

Brian German

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Multimedia Journalist for AgNet West