The increased availability of satellite data is helping to make more informed decisions about water use. Detailed information about water supplies has substantial value on both a micro and macro level. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been a significant collaborator in multiple different projects looking at water use. One particular area of focus has been gathering a better understanding of evapotranspiration (ET).
“I think accurate information on evapotranspiration has the potential to be beneficial to water users at just about every scale,” said Forrest Melton, program scientist for the NASA Western Water Applications Office. “Whether that’s someone waking up early in the morning to turn on a pump or open a valve to irrigate a field or a vineyard or an orchard, to a state or federal water planner trying to ensure that water supplies will be able to meet demand for the next ten, twenty years or more.”
ET information on the scale of individual fields represents the amount of water used by crops and transferred back into the atmosphere as water vapor. Having accurate ET information plays an instrumental role in developing more precise irrigation schedules. “At local scales, in basins that have been seeing declines in groundwater levels. ET data can help communities work more effectively with water managers to bring water supplies and water demand into balance,” Melton noted.
Using satellite data to better understand and track ET on a larger scale can help make more efficient investments moving forward. The OpenET project is one of the latest developments that NASA has been involved in. The platform incorporates satellite data and makes it available to water users. The more in-depth and real-time data that the project presents will provide a host of benefits for farmers and ranchers. “That ability to look at evapotranspiration over the long term and document the benefits of investments in water conservation by the agriculture community is a key strength of OpenET,” said Melton.