Remote sensing of groundwater depletion using GRACE
Groundwater depletion occurs when withdrawals, for example for drinking water and for irrigation, exceed replenishment, for example, from rainfall. Many of the world's major aquifer systems, in particular, those that do not receive much precipitation, are being rapidly depleted (for example, California's Central Valley, and the High Plains aquifer of the midwest) but at rates that are difficult to quantify using traditional methods. Our group has pioneered the use of a new satellite gravity mission, called GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) to monitor groundwater storage changes, in many cases, that could not otherwise be quantified. We are seeking an REU student to work with our team to focus on a specific aquifer (to be selected from the Southeastern U.S., Southern Europe, China, Northern Africa, or the Tibetan Plateau) and to characterize current rates of groundwater depletion in that region. Work will involve assembling existing available datasets and performing analyses on these data. The selected student will have strong support from our research group in all aspects of the work. The research conducted will complement our current and existing work on groundwater depletion the U.S., the Middle East, India, and Australia, and is already having important implications for national and international water resources management.