GIS and California: The Alarming Revelation

Another guest post by this semester’s journalism intern.

Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, are computer systems that allow individuals to map, model, and analyze large amounts of data through a single database. Recently, through the help of GIS maps, significant data have turned up some alarming realizations in regards to a very crucial and life-changing matter: water supply. This new information shows how important the use of GIS is, and how it is utilized in a matter that can effect everyday living.

Californians have a lot to worry about nowadays on top of the mudslides, wildfires, and battles with oil companies. The state referred to by some as “unsustainable” has always had issues with water supply. Now, with new information brought forth by NASA scientists, a strict and frightening op-ed has been released to Californians regarding their water: The state only has about one year of water supply left.

Other information also found by NASA satellites indicate that water basins in Sacramento and San Joaquin are 34 million acre-feet below normal compared to the 2014 year, which started October 1, 2013 and ended September 30, 2014. With it being the hottest year yet for California, water gages from The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California indicate that last year was mostly responsible for damage to the water supply for the state, and the lack of snowfall and overall precipitation didn’t help the drought. The Sierra Nevada (Sacramento) is responsible for more than 60 percent of water supply to the state. It sources drinking water for 23 million people, and irrigation water for agricultural land.

With help from GIS, particularly satellites and mapping systems, illustrations are now available to show the damage to water supply over the past few years. The illustration included shows groundwater conditions from 2011 to 2014. The drastic difference is apparent.

To someone who isn’t a professional in the subject of Spatial studies, GIS is something that wouldn’t be a typical topic of discussion. Truth is, without the technologies that are used to obtain this type of data, how would the population know that their state is in absolute danger? Waking up one morning and finding that there is no water available to take a shower with, or make a pot of coffee for the family would be a devastating experience. The way GIS is able to do this is by obtaining and maintaining accurate locational data, usually of regulated facilities and environmental resources, as well as pollutant sources. With data stored from these findings, it makes recording environmental changes possible which, for some, can mean the difference between life and death.

Because the maps, and satellite findings are now available, scientists have made recommendations for Californians to help them cut down on water usage which include: water rationing, ridding of native landscaping (lawn and plant watering), and stricter regulation of state water.

Californians have already implemented plans to keep their water available for as long as possible. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 requires that local groundwater sustainability agencies, GSAs, take note of conditions in their own local water basins, and from there form locally based management plans that would help sustain water supply and sources.


Live Science offers more information on the issue.