Pura Agua, Pura Vida!

For the past three years, the Arenal-Tempisque Irrigation District governed by Costa Rica’s National Service of Underground Water, Irrigation, and Drainage (SENARA), has experienced drought conditions complicating water management and agricultural production.

UGA graduate students have been key players in developing a model and providing data to aid the drought-stricken district through their Costa Rica Water Resources project. Through collaborative research with NASA, SENARA “was provided with continuous data to more efficiently manage water resources, benefiting local stakeholders including irrigators, and more than 1,000 individual users of the stream,” the project abstract explains.

Steve Padgett-Vasquez is a current PhD candidate at UGA and an advisor to the Costa Rica Water Resources project team. During his first year of graduate school, Padgett-Vasquez helped instate a DEVELOP branch at UGA, a program that partners young researchers, such as himself, with NASA, and uses leading data from NASA Earth observations to address environmental issues.

“I have been working with DEVELOP since 2010, which has given me valuable experience in creating project ideas,” he said.

The Costa Rican Water Resources project came about after Padgett-Vasquez took a Water Management course taught by Dr. Quint Newcomer, Director of UGA Costa Rica. The highlight of the course included staying at UGA Costa Rica’s campus and traveling to Cañas in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica.

It was there that the class met Javier Artiñano Guzmán, an agronomist for SENARA, who spoke about the drought throughout the Arenal-Tempisque Irrigation District. Padgett-Vaquez said listening to Artiñano Guzmán discuss his interest in updating the current GIS infrastructure, and as a result improving water management data, “was all it took to decide it would be a great project.” Padgett-Vasquez already had approval from the US Costa Rican Embassy and the DEVELOP National Program Office to move forward with project planning.

According to Padgett-Vasquez, the long-term impact of this partnership is for SENARA to benefit from supplemental NASA Earth observation data, collected by NASA satellites, and systematically overcome environmental stresses such as drought. Similarly, “participants who are part of the team, Javier [Artiñano Guzmán], and SENARA, will not only get a technical report, but a methodology and training on how to use the data,” Padgett-Vasquez added.

This short clip is an informative overview of the outstanding research being done!

Blog post contribution by Alex Fylypovych, UGA Costa Rica Photojournalism Intern

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