Waterway in Kern County, CA Waterway in Kern County, CA

A new approach to protecting a vanishing resource

The world faces a water crisis that threatens the lives and livelihoods of billions of people.

EDF is creating solutions in the American West that are a model for other arid regions.

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Every part of our lives depends on a reliable water supply. Whether it’s the clothing we wear, the food we eat or the houses we live in — water underpins everything.

Eric Averett General Manager of the Rosedale–Rio Bravo Water Storage District
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Eric Averett talks about water management

As general manager of the Rosedale–Rio Bravo Water Storage District in California’s Central Valley, Averett is acutely aware that water is one of the world’s most precious — and imperiled — resources. Approximately 98% of the world’s available freshwater is stored underground, and scientists have found that the world is increasingly using far more than can be replenished. About 1.7 billion people live in places where groundwater is at risk, and climate change further threatens supplies.

98%

of available freshwater is stored underground.

Map of groundwater depletion in the U.S.
Water supplies at risk: Depletion of groundwater affects many parts of the United States, particularly in the West. The deepest shades of red show the lowest levels of groundwater (as of July 2014), relative to a 60-year average.

Satellite-based data

In the western United States, where agriculture is the largest consumer of the water supply, EDF teamed up with NASA, the Desert Research Institute and Google to launch OpenET, a web application that will provide farmers and water managers with accurate, timely, satellite-based data on the amount of water that is actually used to grow food. The data will help foster sustainable water use.

Farmer using OpenET in field
“If you give farmers better information on when they should and shouldn’t have their water on, you’re going to save water,” says farmer Denise Moyle. “I think that’s the greatest asset of OpenET.”

Our water supplies in the West are crucial to providing food for the country, and yet these supplies are under increasing levels of stress. OpenET will provide the data we need to address the challenge of water scarcity.

Forrest Melton NASA Senior Research Scientist

National and global potential

OpenET will initially cover 17 western states and then expand to the entire nation. Leaders in other arid regions, including Africa and South America, are already expressing interest as well. OpenET supports EDF’s strategy to transform how water is managed, benefiting farmers while ensuring that food is grown in a way that conserves a resource critical to ecosystems.

In California, Averett is using OpenET data in a new online platform to help landowners track their water budgets. He is proud of the work he’s leading in his community. “There’s something satisfying about helping people and being on the cutting edge of something that will last long into the future,” he says.

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