Eric Averett is general manager of the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District in Kern County, California, which is one of 21 regions required by the state to balance groundwater demand and supply within 20 years under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Rosedale is home to approximately 27,500 acres of irrigated cropland and 7,500 acres of urban development. Groundwater demand there exceeds supply by approximately 5,000 acre-feet per year. To inform landowners about their water budgets, Rosedale partnered with EDF, Sitka Technology Group, WestWater Research and local landowners to co-develop a new online, open-source water accounting and trading platform. We asked Eric to answer a few questions about how the platform will help local landowners and how it can be expanded to other parts of the Central Valley.
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), NASA, the DesertResearch Institute (DRI) and Google announced plans today to develop a new web application called OpenET to enable western U.S. farmers and water managers to accurately track water consumption by crops and other vegetation using data from satellites and weather stations.
OpenET will fill a critical information gap in water management in the West. Today, access to accurate, timely satellite-based data on the amount of water used to grow food is fragmented and often expensive, keeping it out of the hands of many farmers and decision-makers. Water supplies in the western U.S. are critical to the health of our communities, food supply and wildlife, but they are facing increasing pressures in the face of population growth and a changing climate.
Applications of OpenET data include:
●Informing irrigation management and scheduling practices to maximize “crop per drop” and reduce costs for water and fertilizer.
●Enabling water and land managers to develop more accurate water budgets and innovative management programs that promote adequate water supplies for agriculture, people, and ecosystems.
●Supporting groundwater management, water trading and conservation programs that increase the economic viability of agriculture across the West.
From the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories:
Groundwater makes up 30 to 50 percent of California’s water supply, but until recently there were few restrictions placed on its retrieval. Then in 2014 California became the last Western state to require regulation of its groundwater. With deadlines starting this year, for the first time water managers in the nation’s premier agricultural region – the state’s Central Valley – are tasked with estimating available groundwater. It’s a daunting technological challenge.
Now a new computational approach developed by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) offers a high-tech yet simple method: it pairs high-resolution images derived by satellite with advanced computer modeling to estimate aquifer volume change from observed ground deformation. The method could help streamline groundwater tracking across a region, once multiple local management agencies begin submitting water management plans to comply with the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (or SGMA, pronounced “sigma).