Filling the Biggest Data Gap in Water Management

Sustainable water management is one of the most challenging issues of our time, especially in arid regions like the western U.S. The health of communities, rivers and wildlife depends on adequate water supplies, and nothing is more important to agriculture’s ability to produce food for the world’s growing population. Maximizing the benefits of our water supplies requires careful measurement of their availability and use. For irrigated agriculture, evapotranspiration (ET) is a measure of the water used to grow food, and is the biggest water use in most arid environments around the world. However, access to this data has been limited and expensive, keeping it out of the hands of most water users and decision-makers.
OpenET aims to provide open and easily accessible ET data for improved water management.

What is Evapotranspiration (ET)?

ET is the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere. It includes both evaporation from the land and transpiration from plants. ET is a core driver of the Earth’s water cycle, returning water to the atmosphere to fall again as precipitation. For irrigated agricultural fields, ET is a beneficial use of water that is necessary for plant growth and food production.

Why is OpenET Needed?

Reliable and widely available ET data at the field scale can be used to:
  • Expand ET-based irrigation practices that maximize “crop per drop” and reduce costs for fertilizer and water.
  • Support trading programs that protect the financial viability of farms during droughts while ensuring that water is also available for other beneficial uses.
  • Develop more accurate water budgets and innovative management programs that ensure adequate supplies of water for agriculture, people and ecosystems over the coming decades.
< Scroll left & right for full chart >
Accessible
ET Information
Cost
Comparability and Trust
Scope
Accessibility
TODAY
High
Variable
Limited
Low
With OpenET
Low
High
Broad
High

Introducing OpenET:

A Tool for Effective Water Management

The OpenET partners aim to improve water management by making ET data more easily accessible through the OpenET digital platform.

The OpenET platform and web application being developed will provide low-cost, automated and widely accessible ET data available at user-defined scales and timeframes. The platform uses data from multiple satellites and employs an ensemble of trusted methods to calculate ET. This approach will ensure data continuity, and help to refine the strengths and accuracy of the methods over time.

Improved access to evapotranspiration data will support water conservation and management

Project Team

The project team includes leading national and international experts in remote sensing of ET, cloud computing, water policy, and water markets, partnered with nationally recognized web development teams specializing in translating scientific data and information for private and public uses, and key partners from the western agriculture and water resource management communities. Development of the OpenET platform is supported by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, the Windward Fund, and the NASA Applied Science Program. In-kind support is provided by partners in the agricultural and water management communities, Google Earth Engine, and the Water Funder Initiative.

Dr. Maurice Hall
Associate Vice President of EDF’s Water Program
Environmental Defense Fund
Maurice advises on the overall strategy and implementation of the project, with a focus on building support among agencies, policy makers and potential end users. Maurice has more than 25 years of experience in water resources management and policy, with particular emphasis in agricultural water use and groundwater management. Maurice’s work has included consulting for urban and agricultural water agencies, serving in various water science and policy roles for global non-profit organizations, and serving as the water program lead for the Water Funder Initiative, a collaborative effort to identify and activate promising water solutions through strategic philanthropic investments in the U.S., starting in the American West, where the scarcity and reliability of clean water are urgent issues. (PhD, Earth Resources, Watershed Sciences, Colorado State University; BS, Chemical Engineering, University of Tennessee Chattanooga)
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Dr. Robyn Grimm
Senior Manager
Water Information Systems
Environmental Defense Fund
Robyn serves as Project Manager and leads on the ground implementation with project partners, coordination among project teams, and development of key reports and publications. Robyn has over 10 years of experience working with large and diverse teams on statewide water management and policy, including levee policy for the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta, multi-objective management for the Yolo Bypass and other Central Valley floodplains, and financing for water management in California. She has expertise in multi-benefit decision support and analysis, and in operations and systems research, including multi-objective optimization and trade-off analysis. (PhD, Hydrologic Sciences, University of California, Davis; MA, Physical Geography, University of California, Davis; BA, Economics and Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles)
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Forrest Melton
Senior Research Scientist
NASA / CSU Monterey Bay
Forrest serves as the technical lead for the project along with Justin Huntington. Forrest and Justin lead the design of the overall architecture and API for the Open ET platform and Forrest serves as the primary coordinator of the ET modeling teams. Forrest has 15 years of experience developing applications of satellite data to address resource management challenges, and has received honor awards from NASA, CDWR and the Federal Labs Consortium for his work to develop applications of satellite data for water managers and agricultural producers in California. Forrest also serves as an Associate Program Manager for Water Resources with the NASA Applied Sciences Program and will coordinate the project activities with NASA funded projects, as well as NASA partnerships with other federal agencies. (MS, Earth Systems, Stanford University; BS Earth Systems, Stanford University)
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Dr. Justin Huntington
Associate Research Professor
Desert Research Institute
Justin serves as the second technical lead for the project. Justin co-leads coordination and technical support for ET software development, implementation, and testing. He leads efforts to obtain, provide, and communicate technical information to project partners and interested stakeholders. Dr. Huntington and his team have extensive background in satellite based ET modeling, engaging with agriculture and water end users, and developing web applications that utilize Google Earth Engine (e.g. ClimateEngine.org, Huntington et al., 2017; EEFlux, Allen et al., 2015) for global on-demand processing and visualization of satellite and climate data. Dr. Huntington is partnering with five western U.S. state water resource agencies to enhance and apply ET data, so leveraging these partnerships and potential use cases will greatly benefit this project, especially with respect to Open ET platform adoption by government land and water agencies. (PhD and MS, Hydrology, University of Nevada Reno; BS, Environmental Science, University of Nevada, Reno)
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Dr. Tyler A. Erickson
Senior Developer Advocate
Google
In this role, Tyler fosters collaborations with researchers from academia, NGO’s, and governmental organizations seeking to capitalize on Earth Engine’s capabilities for geospatial analyses that involve immense satellite and model-based datasets. Dr. Erickson leads the development of Earth Engine’s core efforts in water and climate, and guides the evolution of Earth Engine to support these scientific domains. A snow hydrologist by training, he has degrees civil and environmental engineering and geography degrees from Colorado State University, CalTech, Stanford, and the University of Colorado at Boulder.
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Dr. Jamie Herring
President
HabitatSeven
Jamie has been the executive digital producer for a variety of environmental information products with clients ranging from large multi-lateral institutions such as the World Bank, government agencies such as NOAA, large foundations such as the Gates Foundations, and non-profit organizations such as the World Resources Institute. For this project, Jamie will be lead digital producer for the OpenET data portal. Jamie holds a Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Information Sciences from Cornell University.
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Lee Johnson
Senior Research Scientist
NASA/CSU Monterey Bay
Lee is a Senior Research Scientist and adjunct faculty member in the College of Science at CSU Monterey Bay, and is stationed in the Earth Science Division of NASA Ames through the ARC-CREST agreement. He has over 20 years of experience in development of remote sensing for agricultural applications including ET estimation, and has published over 35 peer-reviewed journal articles, and four technical book chapters. He has served as Principal- or Co-Investigator for research grants from NASA’s Applied Sciences Program, California Dept. Water Resources, California Dept. Food & Agriculture, and USDA. As a SIMS co-developer, he will support model intercomparison analysis and work with team members to evaluate agreement and uncertainty in the OpenET model ensemble. (MA, Geography, UC Santa Barbara; BA, Geography and Economics, UCLA)
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Alberto Guzman
Senior Software Engineer
NASA/CSU Monterey Bay
Alberto supports work on implementation of the OpenET framework on Earth Engine. He will serve as one of the two primary software engineering leads on the API and a primary contact for development of the front-end design of OpenET.
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Charles Morton
Assistant Research Scientist
Desert Research Institute
Charles co-leads METRIC and OpenET software engineering, supports algorithm teams with Google Earth Engine API programming and technology transfer, co-develop back-end/front-end linkages, and participate in training and front-end design. Charles is lead developer of the automated METRIC ET model, co-developer of ClimateEngine.org, and expert in programming within the Google Earth Engine API (e.g., Morton et al., 2013; Allen et al., 2015; Huntington et al., 2017). (MS, Geography, University of Nevada Reno; BS, Mechanical Engineering, University of Nevada, Reno)
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Jordan Harding
Chief Technology Officer
HabitatSeven
Jordan is the Chief Technology Officer at HabitatSeven where he leads innovation in the areas of big data delivery and visualization. Jordan has worked in this capacity for a number of earth observation data and delivery projects for a wide range of organizations in both the private and public sectors. This includes data delivery and visualizations for Underwriters Laboratories, NOAA, the World Bank, NASA, the United Nations, the World Resources Institute, and others. Jordan will help guide and develop the mapping and data systems for OpenET.
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Dr. Britta Daudert
Assistant Research Scientist of Climatology
Desert Research Institute
Britta leads development of the OpenET back-end data queries and time series tools in close coordination algorithms teams. Britta has extensive experience developing web-based climate and environmental data dissemination tools focused on end-user needs and usability (e.g. Oakley and Daudert, 2016; Huntington et al., 2017). (PhD, Mathematics, University of California, Riverside; MS, Mathematics, University of California, Riverside, BS, Mathematics & Physics, University of Ireland, Maynooth Kildare)
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Dr. Martha Anderson
Research Physical Scientist
USDA Agricultural Research Service
Martha conducts research on mapping water, energy, and carbon land-surface fluxes at field to continental scales using thermal remote sensing, with applications in drought monitoring and yield estimation. She is currently a member of the Landsat and ECOSTRESS Science Teams and the HyspIRI Science Working Group. Her participation on the team represents an in-kind contribution to the project with support from NASA. (PhD, Astrophysics, University of Minnesota; BA, Physics, Carleton College)
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Dr. Mitchell Schull
Post-Doctoral Associate
University of Maryland
Mitchell is currently working to implement the ALEXI/DisALEXI modeling framework into an open-source environment for further collaboration with global stakeholders. He conducts research in radiative transfer in vegetation and thermal infrared remote sensing with applications in surface energy balance and carbon flux modeling. Dr. Schull played a role in the development of the carbon flux component of the Two-Source Energy Balance (TSEB) and its subsequent implementation into the DisAggregated Atmosphere Land Exchange Inverse (DisALEXI) model while at the USDA-ARS Hydrology and Remote Sensing Lab. TSEB is the basis land-surface energy balance model used in DisALEXI and ALEXI which are currently used to monitor evapotranspiration, soil moisture and drought at continental to field scales. (Ph.D., Geography and Environment, Boston University; B.S., Geography, University of North Dakota)
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Dr. Christopher Hain
Research Scientist
NASA
Christopher is interested in thermal infrared remote sensing with applications in surface energy balance modeling, soil moisture retrieval, hydrologic data assimilation and drought monitoring. He has played a significant role in the development of the Atmosphere Land Exchange Inverse (ALEXI) model in ongoing collaboration with scientists at the USDA-ARS Hydrology and Remote Sensing Lab; ALEXI is currently used to monitor continental evapotranspiration, soil moisture, and drought. Before joining NASA, he was an Assistant Research Scientist for the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) at the University of Maryland, College Park. (Ph.D., Atmospheric Science; M.S., University of Alabama Huntsville; B.S., Meteorology, Millersville University)
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Dr. Mutlu Ozdogon
Associate Professor
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Mutlu is currently developing field-level crop type and yield estimates from remotely sensed observations that will then be merged with satellite-derived evapotranspiration to get water productivity quantities. His work focuses on agricultural remote sensing including crop type, irrigated area and yield estimation as well as quantifying the effects of large-scale irrigation on environment variables. He is actively collaborating with NASA, USDA, USAID and international scientists to develop field scale ET estimation capabilities over large areas using cloud computing. Before joining faculty at UW-Madison, Dr. Ozdogon was a postdoctoral scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. (Ph.D., Geography, Boston University; M.S., North Carolina State University; B.Eng., Istanbul University)
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Dr. Gabriel Senay
Research Physical Scientist
USGS
Gabriel has developed the SSEBop model along with his team at EROS. The cloud implementation of the SSEBop will be coordinated in collaboration with teams at DRI. He specializes in developing agro-hydrologic models for assessing and monitoring regional water balances, agricultural performance and large-scale drought monitoring. His crop monitoring products are used for decision-making in a wide variety of agencies including USAID, USDA, the World Food Program and the World Bank. (Ph.D. Agricultural Engineering, Ohio State University; M.S. Hydrology, Wageningen University (Netherlands); B.S. in Agricultural Engineering from Alemaya University (Ethiopia)
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Dr. Wim Bastiaanssen
Professor of Global Water Accounting
Delft University of Technology
Wim will serve as team coordinator for the SEBAL team, and will assist with the input of data specifications, and on a seamless transition between 100 and 30 meter ET data. Wim is an expert in earth observation technologies for soil physical, land surface, hydrological and atmospheric processes, with a specialization in river basin and agricultural water management. He has extensive experience in irrigation hydrology at field and regional scales. He developed the Surface Energy Balance Algorithm for Land (SEBAL), an image-processing model that maps evapotranspiration, biomass growth, water deficit and soil moisture. (Ph.D., Eco-hydrology, Soil Physics and Groundwater Management, Wageningen Agricultural University; B.S., Tropical Land and Water Management Engineering, Van Hall - Larenstein, Velp)
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Tim Hessels
Civil Engineer
Delft University of Technology
Tim will provide software support the conversion of pySEBAL to EESEBAL. Tim is the primary hydrological programmer of the water accounting team at UNESCO-IHE, and the primary python programmer for SEBAL. Tim develops python scripts for downloading of open access spatial data sets and water accounting computations. (M.S., Water Management, Delft University of Technology; B.S., Civil Engineering, Delft University of Technology)
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Dr. Jonna van Opstal
Agricultural Engineer
Wageningen University
Jonna will assist with validation of pySEBAL and EESEBAL results against various field data sets in California and elsewhere. Jonna completed her PhD research a METRIC application for irrigation efficiency and irrigation performance. Her interests are in on-farm irrigation processes and in situ measurements of water flows and fluxes. She provides tailor-made- training courses on pySEBAL in Africa and Middle East. (Ph.D., Irrigation Engineering, Utah State University; M.S., International Land and Water Management, Wageningen University; B.S., International Land and Water Management, Wageningen University)
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Dr. Joshua Fisher
Scientist
NASA JPL
Joshua is the developer of the PT-JPL evapotranspiration model. PT-JPL is a leading global-scale remote sensing ET models, and forms the core algorithm of the upcoming NASA ECOSTRESS mission, focused on ET. Dr. Fisher’s team has different operational versions of PT-JPL—one for ECOSTRESS, and another for an application with the State of New Mexico. These systems will be extended to support OpenET. Additional technical support in Dr. Fisher’s team for PT-JPL comes from Gregory Halverson of CSUN. (Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley; B.S., University of California, Berkeley
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Aleix Serrat-Capdevila
Senior Water Resources Management Specialist
The World Bank
Aleix leads the Global Initiative on Remote Sensing for Water Resources Management at the World Bank’s Water Practice, funded by the Global Water Security & Sanitation Partnership. The initiative focuses on bringing innovative remote sensing applications into World Bank projects and foreign government agencies, working to make them operational, and producing knowledge for sustainable implementation. Given the need for field-level ET estimation in many of the projects he is working on, Aleix provides strategic support and coordinates synergies with ongoing World Bank efforts in irrigation districts in Mexico and other countries. While he did publish some papers on evapotranspiration while at the University of Arizona, his strength lies on 18 years of international experience working across academia, government and development sectors. (MS & PhD in Hydrology, minor in Anthropology, The University of Arizona)
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