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Stories | December 11, 2020

WWAO Passes The Baton to The Navajo

By Amber Jenkins

NASA WWAO's new Drought Severity Evaluation Tool (or DSET) has been handed off to its tribal partner, the Navajo Nation, as the project comes to a close. DSET is unique in seeking to understand how Indigenous knowledge and western science can be viewed side-by-side. It is a web-based drought reporting tool co-developed between the Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources (NNDWR), the Desert Research Institute (DRI) and WWAO.

This week marked the launch of the DSET User Guide, which represents a milestone in WWAO's effort to move its water work from research to operational status. The User Guide, along with various training sessions that have already been held between WWAO and the Navajo community, was created to improve the accessibility and uptake of the tool. It is a key part of building capacity within the Navajo Nation for water managers and decision makers to use the tool to track and manage the impacts of drought, which is frequent and pervasive on its lands.

DSET was completed in late 2020 and is currently available and free for all to use here.

The tool aims to help the Navajo improve its ability to monitor and report drought through a combination of precipitation data from NASA satellites, drought indices and ground-based rain measurements. DSET will serve as a long-lasting resource for making maps and conducting time series analysis for climate variables and drought indices that can be used for water management and decision-making.

Nikki Tulley, a member of the Navajo Nation and one of WWAO's partners, talks about her involvement in the project and what water means to the Navajo in a new Perspective piece here.

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Tags: drought Earth observations extreme events navajo research to decision making satellite data water availability