Using NASA’s GRACE Satellites for Water Resource Management in Mexico

By Wise/Mexico Water Team , posted on March 22nd, 2012 in DEVELOP Virtual Poster Session

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The GRACE equivalent water thickness anomaly for the month of November 2011 is represented in this raster image. Data is in the form of pixels. Variation of the color reflects the changes in equivalent thickness of water.

The GRACE equivalent water thickness anomaly for the month of November 2011 is represented in this raster image. Data is in the form of pixels. Variation of the color reflects the changes in equivalent thickness of water.

Team Location: Wise, Virginia; and Monterrey, Mexico

Authors: Edson Nuñez, Juan Saénz, Kaitlyn Collins, Khamar Salma Chittoor Khader, Lohithnaga V. Bhanu Teerth Sama, Paul Warner

Science Advisors/Mentors: Dr. Aldo Iván Ramírez, Dr. Dewayne Cecil, Dr. Jürgen Mahlknecht, Dr. Kenton Ross, Dr. Vidal Garza Cantú, Adriana Nelly Correa, Giovanni Colberg, Yanina Colon

Abstract: Water scarcity has become a critical issue around the world, varying in severity from region to region. The Rio Bravo Hydrologic Region (RBHR) is a prime example of this global problem. The RBHR is the most extensive hydrological region in Mexico consisting of 379,604 km² of land and representing 19% of the national territory. The urbanization in this region is relatively high when compared to other hydrological regions in Mexico. According to the Comision Nacional del Agua (CONAGUA), the RBHR includes 141 municipalities in four states including Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, and Chihuahua. High water stress in this region is supported by the fact that 76% of the available renewable water is depleted. This has forced the construction of aqueducts for the transportation of water from other regions. Renewable water availability per capita is the second lowest in Mexico at 1107 m³/year. CONAGUA anticipates availability to decline to 901 m³/year by 2030. Despite only having 3% of Mexico’s available water, the region is responsible for 14.3% of the country’s GDP. Water utilized for agricultural use in Mexico is unrestricted, leading to the overexploitation of ground water resources. In the RBHR, the number of overexploited aquifers has almost tripled in the last 35 years. To observe ground water availability for the entire RBHR this project was divided into two phases. In collaboration with partners, the objective of Phase I was to use remote sensing such as the GRACE satellite to determine the total water storage in RBHR’s San Juan River zone. With aid from The Nature Conservancy office in Monterrey, Mexico, the InVEST model was used to assess economic development and conservation in the area. Earth observations provided evidence of the depletion of water in this region as well as potential sources of additional water. Results obtained in this project can assist in future decision making regarding ground water conservation methods. This project has benefitted the RBHR’s dense population by improving the management of sustainable water resources for future generations.

Video transcript available here.

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