College of Science

$1.13 million USGS grant funds CSUMB/NASA water-use research

South Monterey County - Photo by Enid Baxter Ryce

Ag field in South Monterey County | Photo by Enid Baxter Ryce

October 9, 2023

AJ Purdy and Lee Johnson of CSU Monterey Bay’s Department of Applied Environmental Science have received a $1.13 million award from the U.S. Geological Survey to provide continued scientific leadership and software engineering in support of OpenET.  

Publicly launched in October 2021, OpenET is a data service that provides satellite-based information on evapotranspiration (when water evaporates or transpires from plants) in accessible and usable formats for partners and stakeholders throughout the western United States. 

The work is expected to lead to advances in the sustainability of water supplies for agriculture, as well as new information products with value for California farmers and wildland firefighters.

On Oct. 3, 2023, the OpenET consortium, launched the OpenET application programming interface to simplify data access and enable other software and data processing tools to use the data.

“OpenET fills an enormous gap in water data,” said Purdy. “We look forward to continuing to optimize and improve the delivery of relevant water data to stakeholders and we are eager to have students participate in this work." 

Both Purdy and Johnson are adjunct faculty and research scientists with CSUMB. Susan Alexander, professor and chair of the Department of Applied Environmental Science, is the CSUMB/NASA Co-op principal investigator. Forrest Melton, previously with CSUMB, and now a senior scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, is the OpenET project scientist. He was recently awarded a medal by the space agency for his work to advance the use of satellite data for water resources management while at CSUMB.

The USGS funding will support advances in the science behind OpenET and lead to further improvements in the accuracy, reliability, and usability of data from OpenET for water resources management applications ranging in scale from major watersheds to individual farms.

Locally, the CSUMB team, with funding from the California State University Agricultural Research Institute and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, collects ground-based data in commercial fields to evaluate the OpenET system’s accuracy for major Central Coast specialty crops.

Student assistants will help with data analysis, laboratory and field-based aspects of the project. The new grant builds on a 25-plus-year cooperative research program between CSUMB and NASA, as well as other collaborators.