April 21: Water expert to talk about assessing water sustainability from space

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As head of the University of Texas at Austin’s Sustainable Water Resources Program, Bridget Scanlon is an expert on water-related issues. She studies the quantity and quality of water resources as climate and land use changes impact groundwater recharge.

Scanlon, a senior research scientist at the Bureau of Economic Geology in the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin, will talk about sustainability issues with respect to water resources at Iowa State University on April 21. Her appearance is part of the Ronald Lecture Series in Environmental Conservation.

Scanlon will present “The Future of Water: Assessing Sustainability from Space” at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 21, in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union. She’ll talk about how she and her team of researchers use data collected from the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite, as well as surface water and groundwater data, to evaluate approaches to coping with drought.

Scanlon was the lead author in a recent study published in the Journal Environmental Research Letters that found that although years of drought and over-pumping have significantly depleted groundwater in Arizona and California, it has created underground reservoirs where extra surface water can be stored during wet times so it is available during drought. With projected increases in droughts and floods with climate change, and California investing $2.7 billion to expand water storage, Scanlon said these techniques could help drought-prone regions prepare for extremes.

To monitor and predict these conditions, Scanlon and her team are using the GRACE satellite in addition to traditional ground-based data such as precipitation gauges and reservoir storage data. The satellite can measure how much water is in storage in an entire state, which provides a good regional perspective on drought and recovery.

Scanlon has a PhD in geology from the University of Kentucky and was the 2007 Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lecturer for the Hydrogeology Division of the Geological Society of America.

The Ronald Lecture Series in Environmental Conservation is co-sponsored by the Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, the Ronald Lecture Fund and the Committee on Lectures, which is funding by Student Government.

Free and open to the public.