Water Resource Management, Climate Change and Water Security

Leveraging the expertise of DRI faculty, CIWAS is expanding DRI’s work to effectively manage water resources and increase water security, including mitigation for climate change impacts.

DRI’s Climate and Hydrology Modeling Group focuses on applied research and accessibility of data for monitoring and forecasting of drought, heat waves, monsoonal regimes, and land-use and land-cover change. We do this with the goal of facilitating interdisciplinary research and fostering applications that impact communities. Our group assesses risks and vulnerabilities in areas including water, energy, infrastructure, ecosystems, and agricultural resources. DRI also has expertise in developing and using climate data (historical and projections) to outline adaptation and mitigation efforts, and inform policymaking and sustainable development. DRI is using satellite imagery to observe changes in the size and greenness of agricultural areas. Future climate projections suggest unpredictable rainfall and temperatures beyond those we have already experienced. Understanding drought, and the effects on agriculture, will become increasingly important in relation to sustenance for smallholder farms and food security for larger regions.

DRI is a national leader in the development of GIS and satellite image processing algorithms that produce high resolution, high accuracy spatial maps of water consumption and plant status. Knowledge of soil and plant water use is essential for understanding the behavior of water movement on earth, understanding health and vulnerability of vegetation systems under drought and other climate and water stresses, and for understanding and managing water resources and food production and security. DRI’s on-demand cloud computing visualization of climate and remote sensing data application called ClimateEngine.org allows for remote access to petabytes of satellite and climate archives through a simple internet connection. Users can analyze and interact with climate and land-surface environmental monitoring datasets in real-time to improve early warning and place-based monitoring related to drought, food security, wildfire, and ecological health without having to download the entire remote sensing and climate archives or rely on static regional scale maps. DRI is also using satellite imagery to observe changes in the size and greenness of agricultural areas and DRI’s ClimateEngine.org team is working with the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) to develop fast and versatile methods for monitoring agricultural drought over broad areas at risk of food insecurity.

DRI faculty members also perform research in basic and applied sciences to better understand the movement of water, nutrients, and energy between plants, soils, and the atmosphere. Our scientists investigate low-cost, small-scale outdoor irrigation technologies that use minimum quantities of water by incorporating sensors to determine when plants should be irrigated. DRI has a long history of building multi-disciplinary teams to develop state-of-the art computer models to predict how surface water and groundwater will respond to changes in climate and increased demand to better forecast altered water resources and how to manage these resources through sustainable solutions. DRI has made important contributions in advancing seasonal drought forecasts for the U.S. based state-of-the-art global forecast systems (National Center for Environmental Prediction-Climate Forecasting Systems- NCEP-CFS) and evaporative demand drought indices.  Although drought predictability changes regionally, these tools can be adapted and tailor for any region in the world.