New Mexico Tech has been awarded a $304,000 grant to estimate consumptive water use in the western United States. Tech Hydrologist Jan Hendrickx will use an image-processing model, the Surface Energy Balance Algorithm for Land, to undertake the project. The model uses Landsat satellite-image data to study the earth’s surface.
“One of the big unknowns is the amount of water evaporation, and that is important to know,” said Hendrickx, who began his research six years ago after learning about the capabilities of Landsat from former colleagues in the Netherlands.
“Current methods for studying water evaporation can be seen down at the Bosque, where expensive equipment is used to get measurements, but the evaporation levels are only given at the point where the measurement is taken,” said Hendrickx.
The Landsat Satellite remotely senses images cover the whole Rio Grande Valley in detail. The image-processing model developed at Tech uses about 25 computer programs to analyze the Landsat images. It can quantify the rate of evaporation from crops, lakes and riparian areas along the Rio Grande. In the future, Hendrickx hopes that the research will result in water managers, such as Middle Rio Grand Conservancy, being able to prevent over watering by knowing exactly the amount of water to release for crops. He noted an example of a satellite image of one particular crop in the Rio Grande that is over-irrigated. The image-processing model can also determine sub-surface water tables. High subsurface levels in riparian areas can be lowered in times of drought for use by the farmers, said Hendrickx.
The research will be based in Socorro and Hendrickx hopes to start by the end of this month. He has hired a part-time post-doctorate assistant and a graduate assistant as part of the project. The drought and population growth in states like New Mexico and Arizona mean that policymakers need more information about their water resources. The entire region should benefit from the findings of the school’s Earth and Environmental Science Department.”
Source: El Defensor Chieftain porter