Project Description: Fire disturbances in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) are projected to increase under a changing climate and are a major cause of increased erosion, runoff, suspended sediment, nutrient release, and debris flows in forested watersheds. Fire-related threats to water quality and quantity are of particular concern to drinking water providers in this region, who rely on forested watersheds to provide clean drinking water to millions of people. This project is a needs assessment that uses focus groups and surveys to collect information from drinking water providers and other water managers throughout the PNW to better understand what remotely sensed data and decision support tools would be needed to help managers make more timely and effective decisions about minimizing wildfire-related impacts to water resources. Results from this assessment will help poise our team to work with the latter-stage NSF-funded FireEarth modeling framework to integrate relevant, rapidly updatable NASA Earth observation data into decision-support tools to help water utility managers plan for and deal with wildfire risks and impacts.
End Users / Partners: Drinking water providers (e.g., Seattle Public Utilities, Portland Water Bureau) and watershed managers.
Data Sources, Models, Technology: Needs assessment results indicate that NASA products including Landsat, MODIS, SMAP, and AVIRIS could greatly aid water managers by integrating existing, relatively static geographic characteristics (e.g., slope, soil type) readily available to water managers with updateable remotely-sensed data that can provide new information on environmental conditions at temporal and spatial resolutions needed to make current decisions. NASA data will be a critical part of this decision-support tool, helping managers monitor and use vegetative stress, soil moisture, temperature, and fuel conditions to predict current areas of fire risk and explore the effectiveness of potential responses through modeled scenarios.