Fighting Water Scarcity with GPS

gps water photo

Has your GPS ever led you to water? Image credit: pizzodisevo/Flickr

The western United States has a problem: water. Droughts brought on by climate change and population explosions have already had shocking effects on agriculture and drinking water reserves and things are expected to get much worse.

The chances of finding or creating a new reservoir for the region are slim: The only solution is better management of the resources already available. New research is showing that GPS might be one part of the management solution.Scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder have begun using interference patterns—called multipath signals—created when satellite signals reflect off the earth, to measure moisture on the ground and in vegetation.

Watch Focus Earth: Water for The People, Not The Fish! (Video) on Planet Green

Multipath signals have, until now, been considered interference, or a nuisance variable, by researchers. By working closely with farmers, however, researchers have been able to prove a correlation between the delay of the multipath signals and the amount of snow on the ground or the amount of moisture in plants.

The advantage, they explained, is that this system could quickly create a moisture map of an entire field using existing inexpensive technology. Current moisture sensors are only able to measure a limited area, providing farmers with an incomplete image of the field's condition.

In addition to helping farmers target their irrigation more precisely, the technique could also be used by climate modelers, atmospheric researchers, and meteorologists.

For more information about how the system works and how it can be used, watch this video from the University of Colorado:

Read more about water:
Peak Water: Exploring the Water Crisis
Colorado River Reservoirs Could Have 50-50 Chance of Running Dry Due to Climate Change by 2057
7 Simple, Unexpected Ways to Save Water

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