Western States Water Use Program

Program Description

The quantification of consumptive water use via evapotranspiration ET is required for basin water balance estimates, for estimating streamflow and groundwater depletion stemming from irrigation activities, for irrigation water management, for water use reporting, and for review and litigation of water rights applications, transfers, and disputes. The use of satellite imagery is the only way to accurately estimate ET under actual field conditions over large areas in a spatially explicit fashion. Based on our team’s experience and interactions with western state water resource agencies, there is a great need for accurate, defensible, and timely maps of water use that are summarized at field and regional scales, the spatial scales at which water rights are managed.

The main goal of the Western States Water Use Program WSWUP) housed at the Desert Research Institute is to advance plant water requirement and remote sensing tools that can be used by water management agencies and other stakeholders to develop regional and field scale historical and operational evaporative demand, actual ET and consumptive use estimates for decision-support over relevant time periods and areas of interest.  In partnership with several western U.S. universities, and state and federal agencies, WSWUP is developing evaporative demand, irrigation water requirements, and crop and groundwater dependent ecosystem actual ET and CU estimates for priority areas of interest using high performance and cloud computing resources provided by NASA’s Earth Exchange and Google Earth Engine. High performance and cloud computing resources allows for operational applications, advanced web-mapping and visualizations of geospatial and statistical summaries, and ultimately long-term sustainability and decision-support.


Barrick Gold Corporation
Bureau of Reclamation
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
California State University, Monterey Bay
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)
National Air and Space Agency (NASA)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Nevada Division of Water Resources
United States Geological Survey (USGS)
University of Colorado, Boulder
University of Idaho
Western Regional Climate Center 


Justin Huntington, Ph.D.
Program Director


Desert Research Institute
2215 Raggio Parkway
Reno, NV 89512


Hydrologic Sciences