WSU researchers work to reduce water usage

Programs aim to analyze agricultural patterns in seasons, waste in fields



The company behind commercialization for WSU's Cosmic Crisp apple filed an injunction to block records requests about the project, stating their release could harm itself and the university.

JAYCE CARRAL, Evergreen reporter

Scientists and researchers from WSU and six other universities are working on a project to improve water usage in the state.

The $5 million project, spearheaded by the state’s Water Research Center (WRC) is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Jonathan Yoder, director of Washington’s WRC and WSU professor.

The project is slated to run for five years and will allow agriculture to flourish while minimizing water waste, he said. The WRC is focusing on three technological designs.

The first project focuses on the ability to predict water usage. This includes predicting not only seasonal water forecasts but the amount of water that will be available to use, Yoder said.

Having the ability to predict rainfall during the seasons will allow for those in agriculture to make preparations necessary for crops to grow, he said. Predicting weather patterns as they correlate to agricultural seasons will make it less likely for crops to wither from a lack or excess of water.

“Researching is important,” Yoder said. “It allows [for] understanding and how to better manage water usage.”

The second project involves creating a satellite-based system that can detect the amount of water used for agriculture by measuring and comparing the water consumption of the plant and the amount that leaves the system to the amount of water that is originally applied to the plant, Yoder said.

“A lot of [water] leaves the watershed and just goes downstream,” Yoder said.

The third project is a computer-aided water system, Yoder said. This would help with marketing water.

The system creates the ability to easily find water buyers and sellers. Water markets operate smoother with this system as it will allow water transactions to be made in a simple manner.

The computer system will operate in a manner similar to other supply-and-demand services. However, this project will make the operation much easier to navigate for both consumers and producers, Yoder said.

“Water transactions are clunky,” he said. “It often doesn’t function very well. [The system] will help water markets function better.”

Working on the project are various university groups, private firms and scientists. The WRC has invited several graduate and non-graduate students from WSU to work on the project.

“It is a broad scope on a broad issue,” Yoder said. “This will allow water use in agriculture to become as efficient as possible.”