As for everyone, 2020 brought the unique challenges of COVID-19. Despite the hurdles presented by a global pandemic, WWAO was able to navigate operations fairly smoothly, given its across-NASA team and distributed network of water partners, and grow from strength to strength.
The main impact of COVID-19 was on in-person interactions that had been planned for 2020 – primarily capacity-building workshops for mature projects, WWAO’s second interagency Research to Operations workshop, and technical interchanges with WWAO’s Water Alliance partners. Key workshops and conferences were held virtually, and in many cases WWAO was able to reach a broader-than-usual audience. While COVID-19 hampered water partners’ ability to collect crucial ground-based data, WWAO’s Navajo Nation drought tool and the Airborne Snow Observatory helped fill the gaps in drought reports and snow surveys, respectively. Capacity- and partnership-building were conducted virtually, as was WWAO’s private-sector needs assessment.
Despite the pandemic, 2020 was a busy year for WWAO. Highlights of our work include:
At the start of 2021, WWAO put out a Request for Information to water stakeholders to seed new projects in the Columbia River Basin, which will be launched later in the year. Three existing projects will come to an end and transition technology to their partners (USDA NASS, New Mexico Office of the State Engineer, University of California Cooperative Extension and farmers in the west). On the water-management needs front, WWAO will complete its assessments underway in the Missouri and Rio Grande River Basins, and these will add to the catalog of needs in WWAO’s NASA Water Portal. Assuming COVID-19 shutdowns are largely lifted by late spring 2021, WWAO plans to hold face-to-face needs assessments and a Research to Operations workshop in 2021.
Beyond water needs and projects, WWAO will continue to build strategic partnerships with stakeholders and deepen relationships with NASA missions and researchers. WWAO’s NASA Water Portal and Newsletter will aid strategic engagement, as will involvement in NASA’s Food and Drink communications campaign. WWAO will release Project Impact Briefs and highlights, and publish papers underscoring the power of remote sensing in decision making, and how best to bring NASA technology to bear on 21st-century water issues.