NASA to help monitor California's water supply amidst drought


NASA is already using its fleet of satellites to monitor wind, water and other weather patterns on Earth. Now, they are using those satellites to focus more on California. It is using the data to assess the snowpack, ground water levels and predict storms.

"NASA has a lot of satellites and airborne instruments which we've been looking at different parts water is stored and where water flows to," said Michael Gunson of NASA's Global Change & Energy Program.

NASA and the California Department of Water Resources are meeting in Sacramento this week to discuss how this partnership would work. They say it's like pieces of a puzzle to help those in charge of managing the state's water supply. And despite all the science, there are still many variables we simply don't understand.

"One of the great scientific challenges is to do a better job of what we would say is a seasonal forecast, what's going to happen next winter, for example, or into our annual forecast," said Gunson. "How long is this drought going to last? It's extremely difficult to do that prediction."

The snowpack provides our drinking water and there is water in underground aquifers, but as we use more water from those aquifers, they are slowly being emptied, possibly causing damage.

"We could reach a point where those structures collapse and it could be an irreversible process," said Gunson. "We may not be able to recharge those aquifers."

The history of California and the Southwest has been marked by a series of droughts, and some wonder if we are entering another extended drought this time.

"This last century was perhaps the wettest or one of the wettest centuries in the past 13, it was not the norm," said Gunson.

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