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News Release

Jacobs School Water Conservation Research Makes Headlines around the World

San Diego, CA, January 02, 2009 -- Water conservation research that Jacobs School of Engineering professor Jan Kleissl and his mechanical engineering and environmental engineering students are performing in California’s Imperial Valley is making headlines around the world. A story by Associated Press journalist John Rogers about Kleissl’s efforts to monitor irrigation water needs using laser beams has run in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Economist and many other news outlets. The story first appeared as a short item from the most recent issue of the Jacobs School alumni magazine, Pulse.

The issue of Pulse highlights some of the ways the Jacobs School and UC San Diego more generally are pursuing the grand challenges in engineering as outlined by the National Academy of Engineering. The Pulse story is below. You can also listen to a seven minute audio interview with Jan Kelissl on the rural radio network here.


How Much Irrigation Water?

Samer Naif MAE undergrad
Jacobs School mechanical engineering undergrad Samer Naif sets up a sensor in California's Imperial Valley. The large aperture scintillometer determines the amount of irrigation water that is lost through evaporation.
As California’s population continues to grow in the coming decades, freshwater supplies to farms, homes and businesses are expected to decline. To help reduce the vast amount of water used for agriculture— which consumes about four times the fresh water of homes and businesses—researchers at the Jacobs School are using sensor technologies to devise new strategies for irrigating farmland more efficiently. In alfalfa fields in California's Imperial Valley, mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Jan Kleissl and his students have installed a "large aperture scintillometer" that measures, over a three-mile radius, the amount of irrigation water that is lost through evaporation from the ground and from plants. This evaporation data provides insights into how much irrigation water is needed. The goal of the project is to create tools that California farmers and water agencies can use to determine exactly how much irrigation water a particular field requires, and thus avoid both overwatering and underwatering.


Media Contacts

Daniel Kane
Jacobs School of Engineering

Andrea Siedsma
Jacobs School of Engineering