CALIFORNIA IS RUNNING on groundwater right now. As the state has cut down on surface water deliveries from rivers and reservoirs, farmers and municipal water suppliers have reacted by sucking more and more out of Madre Earth. The state’s land, in response, is sinking lower and lower, day by day, year by year.
In times of crisis, turning to groundwater is understandable (it may even be unavoidable). But—as it stares down its inevitably dessicated future—California is finally waking up to the need to monitor and protect these reserves. To do that, the state’s Department of Water Resources is turning to new techniques using satellite data which, by measuring changes in the ground above, can keep an eye on water levels below. Essentially, if the Golden State is going to weather this disaster, it will need some help from up high.
Earlier this week Tom Farr, a geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, completed the first of many maps for the California Department of Water Resources with data collected by the European Sentinel-1 satellite. That map, of the state’s agriculture hub in the Central Valley, is part of a larger project to use NASA expertise to study—and try to help combat—California’s drought.
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