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California Regulators Try Aerial Imagery To Measure Water Use 12 December 2016

 

California Regulators Try Aerial Imagery To Measure Water Use

“What the images do is they avoid painstaking, time-consuming, highly costly work of parcel-by-parcel analysis on the ground of what the land use is,” according to a California water official.

California regulators are trying a new tool to support water conservation: aerial imagery.

One strategy in the state’s latest conservation plan is taking pictures from above to measure the amount of irrigated land and green grass there is in various communities, according toThe Desert Sun. Officials will rely on high-resolution images shot from airplanes.

“The state has budgeted $3 million for a first-of-its-kind project analyzing high-resolution aerial images of 410 urban water suppliers’ areas throughout California. Data from those images, together with data on climate and other factors, will help state officials calculate new community-specific conservation targets for the coming years,” the report said.

“The approach of using aerial images to measure greenery from lawns to hedges is part of a strategy laid out by state agencies in a proposed conservation plan. The company that carries out the project will obtain the images and use digital tools to analyze the landscapes and estimate how much water is being used,” the report said.

California regulators unveiled a new conservation for the state in December. When Governor Jerry Brown lifted tight water restrictions in May, he paired that announcement with a decision to order up a new conservation plan for the state, according to the Associated Press.

“The plan includes creating customized water-use limits for urban water districts, so that arid Palm Springs, for example, would have a different amount of water budgeted than foggy San Francisco. City water districts would have until 2025 to fully set and meet the budgets, and risk state enforcement if they fell short,” the report said.

The plan for the aerial images is to pair the visuals with climate data and information on evaporation rates to calculate budgets for how much water each California community can use outdoors.

“Each city and water supplier will eventually receive a water budget from the state for the coming years and be able to decide how to meet the overall water use goals — whether by detecting and fixing leaky pipes or by achieving water savings among customers,” the report said.

Max Gomberg, climate and conservation manager at the State Water Resources Control Board, spoke to The Desert Sun about the goal of the aerial imagery project.

“What the images do is they avoid painstaking, time-consuming, highly costly work of parcel-by-parcel analysis on the ground of what the land use is,” Gomberg said. “So now we have this ability to just sort of look down from the sky, as it were, and at high resolution see what’s there so that we can essentially come up with a total acreage, a total landscape area.”

The latest conservation figures from California, released in December, showed a slip in savings in October compared to last year, according toThe Sacramento Bee.

“All told, Californians used 19.5 percent less water in October 2016 than they did in October 2013, the baseline established by state officials to measure conservation results. The latest results weren’t quite as strong as in October 2015, when savings hit 22.3 percent. But it represented an improvement over September, when consumption shot up by 8 percent,” the report said.

 

Image credit: "Orange County Archives," Crown Valley Parkway, Mission Viejo, 1968 © 2014, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Posted: 12 December 2016