The drought is more of a climatological phenomenon, but it’s important to recognize that we need to sustain available groundwater to help us get through these periods of very little rain and snow.” — Jay Famiglietti
As the senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Jay Famiglietti has been studying groundwater depletion globally since 1995. With his team at JPL, Famiglietti has tracked freshwater availability using satellites and developed computer models to better understand how supplies are changing.
While human water consumption draws on many sources, we rely particularly heavily on groundwater during droughts. As periods of minimal rain and snow will continue to occur, Famiglietti stresses the importance of the broader public understanding how water systems work, and how different supply chains intersect: “I think [the drought’s] really underscored the need for communication … to really help people understand where their water comes from, and those supplies can either be fluctuating wildly or decreasing or both.”
And just as the public can no longer be indifferent to water usage, the architecture profession must also refresh its standards of water efficiency. “Architecture around the world – certainly in the United States – we’ve really gotten away from water use efficiency because we’ve been able to,” says Famiglietti. “Not only do I think we need to change the way that our homes are built and situated, but we also need to change what’s in them to be more efficient.”
Famiglietti is also a professor of Earth Systems Science and Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Irvine. His expertise regarding California water systems and the drought are frequently called upon by prominent media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times and MSNBC, and now, as a jury for Archinect’s Dry Futures competition.
Have an idea for how to address the drought with design? Submit your ideas to the Dry Futures competition!