NASA Western Water Applications Office
“The history of the west is written in water, and its future will be too.”
Water is the essence of life. It is one of the key things that distinguishes planet Earth from all the other planets we have discovered so far. Despite Earth being an ocean planet, water is the most precious of all natural resources, with only about 2% of the planet’s water being fresh.
Water has always been essential to the prosperity of the western United States. Yet in the arid American west, as in many regions of the world, water decisions are becoming ever more complex. Water supplies are under increasing pressure – from changes in land use, from climate change, and from a rapidly growing population that is driving increased social and economic development and natural-resource consumption. Managing water in the western United States is particularly challenging because most precipitation falls in winter and is stored in mountain snowpack, but must supply users throughout the long, dry summers. Climate change is shifting this water cycle, affecting water availability, reservoir storage, water allocations, and flood control. For western states, water is an increasingly scarce commodity that must be managed more carefully than ever before while accommodating growing demand. This calls for new solutions.
As one of the world's leading climate and Earth research agencies, NASA – with its wealth of Earth observations, tools and scientific expertise, and a long history of diverse partnerships and collaborations – is uniquely positioned to help state, local and federal water agencies address the problems they face today. Today’s water managers need new approaches and new knowledge, some of which can only be gathered by remote sensors that see large areas and long timescales. Long-standing planning practices – including those that rely on local data collection and analysis – can be improved using new data, higher-resolution and wider-area measurements, as well as state-of-the-art computer modeling.
The mission of NASA’s Western Water Applications Office (WWAO) is to help solve important and pressing water-resource problems that the western United States faces today. To do this, WWAO equips water decision-makers with useful, accessible and sustained remote-sensing-based information.
WWAO leverages decades of NASA investment in science and technology to deliver useful, actionable information to those on the ground making water decisions and shaping policies that potentially affect millions of people.
Scientists have been using NASA satellite, airborne, and computer-model data to study our planet for more than 40 years. The impacts of NASA’s sustained investments have been significant, both to our general scientific knowledge and to the thousands of public and private sector institutions that have incorporated and built on this expertise.
NASA offers unique capabilities that can be used to provide actionable information about water availability, extreme events such as flooding and drought, water quality, user demand, and infrastructure integrity.
Many water managers recognize the value of NASA’s data to decision support but they also find it challenging to use the data operationally. In many cases, water managers lack the scientific and technical resources to access, process, or analyze the information for decision making.
Moreover, the western water landscape is very complex. A vast number of players have been established over many years to ensure that water is captured where possible and available where needed. This system offers very little uniformity or centralized control, yet has nonetheless delivered water for over 150 years.
WWAO was created to address these challenges and accelerate the application of NASA observations and scientific analysis techniques to tangible, important, and timely water problems. It arms water stakeholders with valuable scientific resources about the changing hydrology of the American west, thus helping them to make better, more informed decisions.
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Please refer any questions you may have to:
NASA Western Water Applications Office
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109