A recently published study figured out how to more precisely monitor agricultural irrigation using satellite and environmental data from Google Earth Engine.
Such new research methods are important because agriculture is the largest use of fresh water around the globe, but precise data and maps are in short supply for farmers and water resource managers.
The project focuses on vital agricultural regions of the Republican River Basin within parts of Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas that delivers surface water and groundwater to the Ogallala Aquifer. Researchers discovered that irrigation in this region roughly doubled between 2002 and 2016.
“We want to know how human activities are having an impact on the environment,” said hydrogeologist David Hyndman of Michigan State University, the project’s principal investigator. “Irrigation nearly doubles crop yields and increases farmer incomes, but unsustainable water use for irrigation is resulting in depletion of groundwater aquifers around the world. The question is: ‘How can we best use water?”