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Grant Puts UI Water Tracking Software on Space Station

University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences water resources Professor Richard G. Allen’s decades-long efforts to use satellite imagery to track irrigation water use on Earth has a new platform: the International Space Station.

Allen, who is based at UI’s Kimberly Research and Extension Center, received a $155,000 grant from NASA in 2016 to develop software to estimate water consumption on Earth as part of the space agency’s .

NASA wants to measure surface temperatures around the globe to better understand plant-water dynamics and future ecosystem changes related to climate.

In 2009, Allen and colleagues at the Idaho Department of Water Resources were honored by Harvard University’s Ash Institute with an Innovations in American Government Award for developing the satellite-based system known as METRIC. It tracks irrigation water consumption by measuring how much water evaporates and how much is released by plants.

In the years since, Allen has worked with Google engineers and colleagues in other states to advance space-based water monitoring on Earth.

The goal for the International Space Station effort is to better identify critical water stress points in key areas on Earth that may be affected most by climate change, better under-stand how and when plants need water, and measure agricultural water use throughout the U.S. to improve drought monitoring.

The mission is scheduled to launch in 2020 and operate for two years.

Article by Bill Loftus, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Rick Allen
Water Resources Professor Richard G. Allen

ECOSTRESS: Monitoring plants from space

The ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) instrument will study plant health and water stress from the vantage point of the International Space Station.

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