image title

Measuring impact of drought on groundwater resources from space

March 19, 2019

ASU scientists using latest space technology to assess the health of a large aquifer system in California’s San Joaquin Valley

A team of Arizona State University scientists has been using the latest space technology, combined with ground measurements, to assess the health of one of the nation’s most important sources of underground water, a large aquifer system located in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

The team, comprised of School of Earth and Space Exploration researchers Chandrakanta Ojha, Susanna Werth and Manoochehr Shirzaei, focused on the San Joaquin Valley’s most recent drought period, from 2012 to 2015, measuring both groundwater loss and aquifer storage loss. The results of their findings have been recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

With the hope of providing water resource managers with better tools to help keep aquifers healthy, the research team is developing new observation techniques to monitor groundwater and storage capacity of this important California aquifer. 

They are using a unique combination of data from the NASA GRACE satellites, the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel 1 satellite, extensometers and ground level records.

The results of the recent study, which is a follow-up to their 2018 published research on the 2007-2010 drought in California’s Central Valley, show an alarming loss of ground water each year of the 2012-2015 drought and, more importantly, an overall permanent loss of storage capacity in the San Joaquin Valley aquifer.

“Using high-tech Earth-orbiting satellites, we can see that groundwater overdraft in a large part of San Joaquin Valley has caused the permanent compaction of clay layers, resulting in rapid ground sinking of up to almost 12 inches per year,” co-author Shirzae said. "Through our research, we measured the amount of permanent compaction in the aquifer and we can now calculate the amount of water loss that has caused this compaction."

While the space and ground data showed an average groundwater loss of 1.6 trillion gallons (6.1 cubic kilometers) for each year of the drought (close to the total equivalent of the volume of Lake Powell in Arizona), the data also indicate that the aquifer system has permanently lost up to 3 percent of its storage capacity from 2012 to 2015.

“The lost groundwater storage capacity cannot be recovered through natural recharge,” lead author Ojha explained. “It’s a permanent loss that will decrease the availability of groundwater needed during future droughts, potentially running wells dry and effecting both communities and agriculture.”

While 3 percent of aquifer loss may sound small, compounded with subsequent expected future droughts, the impact could be severe.

“If we have even one drought per decade, our aquifers could shrink a bit more each time and permanently lose more than a quarter of their storage capacity this century,” said co-author Werth, who also holds a joint appointment in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.  

“While the exact frequency of future droughts might be uncertain,” said co-author Shirzaei, “we know from our 2018 and 2019 analyses that up to 5 percent of aquifer storage capacity has already been permanently lost during the first two decades of the 21st century.”

While this research specifically focused on California, the researchers plan to continue this type of data analysis to measure aquifers' health in the southwestern United States and around the world.

“Water managers may not be able to change water use right away,” Ojha said. “But this study gives them the scientific knowledge and data analysis they need to implement sustainable water usage practices in the future and that may help preserve the availability of groundwater resources for decades to come."

“We cannot properly manage what we don’t measure,” Werth said.

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager , School of Earth and Space Exploration

480-965-9345

 
image title

Sun Devil Giving Day encourages gifts to impactful ASU initiatives

March 19, 2019

Annual event aims to reach record number of givers; pledges will fund scholarships, emerging programs and student success

Over the years, Arizona State University has encouraged its students and alumni to adopt a philosophy of philanthropy in support of higher education.

And the message has been catching on. In fact, it’s what Sun Devil Giving Day is all about.

On Thursday, thousands of Sun Devil alumni, families, faculty, staff and students will celebrate the seventh annual event by supporting the university’s education initiatives and research ventures with a goal of solving some of the most pressing issues facing society today.

“Sun Devil Giving Day is a universitywide celebration of giving at ASU,” said Andrew Carey, executive director of donor outreach for ASU Foundation. “It acknowledges the generosity of our community. It invites people to give to programs they care about. It’s also about understanding what private support does to advance ASU.”

More than 4,300 people made a difference last year when they pledged their support, ranging from $5 gifts to a six-figure amount. All told, they tallied over $600,000. Carey said the goal this year is to reach 10,000 gifts — more than double last year’s total gift count.

Philanthropy helps the university innovate, educate and pay it forward, said Carey. ASU programs include a clean-water initiative in developing countries, the reinvention of athletic facilities, the establishment of new professorships, a staff emergency fund for personnel in crisis, and almost 11,000 private-support scholarships awarded to students in 2019.

Woman holding frame

ASU student Miranda Yousif benefited from Sun Devil Giving Day last year. She is planning a career in the medical field.

Someone who directly benefitted from Sun Devil Giving Day is Miranda Yousif, who as a freshman took a part-time job doing basic lab work in ASU’s Biodesign Institute. She enjoyed it so much she ended up majoring in biological science.

Yousif received a Biodesign Student Travel Grant in February 2018 that was funded through Sun Devil Giving Day. The gift enabled her to travel to a conference in Las Vegas to present to the American Society for Microbiology, where she won an award for best undergraduate presentation. She went on to receive a Fulbright summer grant to study in England.

Now a junior, Yousif is set to graduate next spring and will take the Medical College Admission Test in May.

“All of my experiences at ASU have cemented for me that I want to go to medical school to become a physician,” Yousif said. “Sun Devil Giving Day gave me the opportunity to demonstrate that I am developing my footprint as a scientist."

There are several ways to participate in Sun Devil Giving Day:

• Join the discussion on social media by following the ASU Foundation on Facebook and Twitter.

• Share a story using the hashtag #SunDevilGiving and encourage family and friends to do the same.

• Make an online gift on March 21 to any area of ASU including a school, unit, program or scholarship account.

To raise awareness with the campus community, the ASU Foundation will set up tables from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Palm Walk and Tyler Mall and in front of Wrigley Hall and Hayden Library on the Tempe campus, between the University Center and the Cronkite School on the Downtown Phoenix campus, near the Memorial Union on the Polytechnic campus and outside Fletcher Library on the West campus. The tables will invite students to vote on one of five causes they care about: first-generation students, clean-water projects, the environment, arts and culture accessibility, and cancer research. These are the types of causes that benefit from giving to ASU programs.

This year the ASU Foundation has partnered with Aramark at all four ASU campuses to help raise resources for the Student Crisis Fund. Faculty, staff and students can make a $1 donation, or more, at point of sale at campus restaurants and stores through Thursday.

Sun Devil Giving Day runs from midnight to 11:59 p.m. March 21, and donations are made on the website or secured through the Sun Devil Giving outreach center (Tell-a-Devil Network). The site will display a real-time dashboard showing the total amount of donors and program fundraising totals for the effort.

Gifts will be deposited with the ASU Foundation and may be considered a charitable contribution.

Top photo: ASU student Shannon Ganzer and Cheryl Shumate, vice president of human resources at ASU Enterprise Partners, promote Sun Devil Giving Day in March 2018. Photo courtesy of the ASU Foundation

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-5176