An online platform reporting evapotranspiration (ET) trends in the drought-stricken western U.S. is intended to help water managers, farmers and state officials better manage resources.

The OpenET system uses publicly available data, primarily from the Landsat program, to provide satellite-based information on these trends. Measurements of ET, the process through which water leaves plants, soils and other surfaces and returns to the atmosphere, can be used by farmers to estimate the amount of water being taken up or used by fields and crops and that will usually need to be replaced through irrigation or rainfall.

OpenET also can enable rural communities and water managers to design locally driven water conservation, trading and other innovative programs to build more sustainable water supplies.

The system uses open-source models and Google Earth Engine to provide satellite-based information on water consumption in areas as small as a quarter of an acre at daily, monthly and yearly intervals. Eventually, the tool will extend to other parts of the U.S., including areas around the Mississippi River and Appalachian region.

OpenET was developed through a public-private collaboration led by NASA, Environmental Defense Fund, Desert Research Institute, Google Earth Engine, HabitatSeven and several universities, with input from more than 100 stakeholders.

To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com